When Arkansas center fielder Collin Kuhn gunned down Mississippi State baserunner Daryl Norris at the plate Sunday afternoon in the top of the eighth inning, you could sense yet another Razorback late-inning comeback.
The crowd of 8,023 fans at Baum Stadium got even more revved up when Kyle Robinson walked and Dominic Ficociello – the tying run - roped a line drive that looked headed into right-center field gap.
But reserve second baseman Sam Frost leaped, snagged the ball and turned it into a double play and the Bulldogs went on to put an end to the Razorbacks' eight-game winning streak with a 5-3 decision.
"It looked like we were getting to go first and third with nobody out – or at least first and second – and then probably bunt them over and have the top of the line-up coming up with a shot to tie it with a single," Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. "But the guy made a nice play. The ball almost came out of his glove, he kind of snow-coned it, but we had our chances and just didn't cash in."
After taking sole possession of first place in the SEC West on Saturday, Arkansas (26-9, 8-7) fell into a three-way tie with Alabama and Ole Miss and failed to get its second sweep in as many weekends.
"It's upsetting," Kuhn said. "We had a good win Friday, another one Saturday and we were looking to seal the deal, but just couldn't get it done."
Mississippi State (22-14, 6-9) avoided being swept despite being out-hit 8-7 during Sunday's game by taking advantage of seven walks and having two hit batters.
The Bulldogs got 8 2/3 innings of relief pitching from Luis Pollorena (2-1) and Caleb Reed after starter Evan Mitchell was pulled after 17 pitches in the first inning and down 2-1.
The game ended when Bo Bigham flew out to Mississippi State left fielder Brent Brownlee, who caught the ball and then was caught on television flipping off the Arkansas crowd as he ran off the field.
Brownlee "will be suspended for his action after today's game" according to a tweet from MSU head coach John Cohen.
"Brent is a model student-athlete who had a 'knee jerk' reaction to an unsettling situation," Cohen said in a statement released later Sunday. "No amount of verbal abuse or threats of physical violence from fans justifies Brent's reaction."
Van Horn said Mississippi State took advantage of anything Arkansas gave it.
"We swung at some pitches that were borderline in certain counts and that was a little disappointing, but really the bottom line is they did a good job in putting pressure on us," Van Horn said. "I think one time they had five runs on about five hits.
"If we walked them, they ended up scoring; if we hit them, it was a sac fly," Van Horn said. "We just really didn't control the game on the mound very well."
The Razorbacks had hoped ace D.J. Baxendale could start or at least pitch on Sunday. He warmed up, but couldn't go because of the blister on his hand that has kept him from pitching this week.
"He was coming in during the fourth and getting loose, but he kind of tore it again or something," Van Horn said. "We couldn't bring him in."
That was tough break for Arkansas per Van Horn.
"We went through our pitching pretty good," Van Horn said. "Any time you lose a guy like D.J., who usually eats up seven or eight innings a weekend, it's hard. Especially when you have got some young guys that aren't really experienced."
Arkansas started true freshman Ryne Stanek (2-1), who lasted three-plus innings before getting chased.
He contributed to his own demise with a run-scoring errant throw wide of first base in the fourth inning that also sent runners scurrying to second and third with nobody out.
Stanek's misplay of a sacrifice bunt dug him a hole that he and the Razorbacks couldn't get out of on Sunday.
"That was bad," Van Horn said. "It was just a routine bunt. Just flip it over. But it is kind of his growing up story. He has got to get it going and relax in the middle of the diamond. It's just a routine play. Instead they got a run in and runners at second and third. We are lucky we got out of there with just one more run scoring."
Stanek gave up four runs on three hits and three walks.
Jeff Harvill entered, gave up a sacrifice fly and put two more runners on base before Travis Daniel entered and kept the game 4-3.
The only run scored after that point came on a Daniel's bases-loaded walk to pinch-hitter Nick Vickerson in the seventh.
"Daniel gave us some quality innings and a chance to get back in the game," Van Horn said. "We couldn't get that big hit and they just kept making plays."
Kyle Robinson's two-run single in the first pushed Arkansas ahead 2-1 and then Bigham extended his hitting streak to 15 games with an RBI single in the second.
Ficociello and Jarrod McKinney had two hits for the Razorbacks.
Jarrod Parks was 2-of-3 to pass the Bulldogs.
Arkansas will face ORU in Tulsa Tuesday night before traveling to Kentucky next weekend to begin the second half of the 30-game SEC slate.
"We really take it a series at a time," Razorback catcher James McCann said. "We'll worry about our game with Tulsa on Tuesday and then worry about Kentucky this weekend. We know we're halfway through and we have to play better baseball than we did the first half."
Mississippi St. 5, Arkansas 3
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