April has been very, very good for the Arkansas baseball team.
Clark Eagan and Joe Serrano both delivered two-out RBI singles in the eighth inning as the Razorbacks rallied past Mississippi State 7-6 Friday night before 3,979 fans at Baum Stadium.
"It was just a gritty comeback win," Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. "We didn't play great. We pitched just good enough and we got a couple of timely hits obviously.
"...It doesn't look good with two outs, but first pitch we get a (Eagan) base hit up the middle and then he hangs a pitch to Joe and Joe kind of set back and he hit it hard and it just shot into left field and all of a sudden we are winning the ballgame."
The win pushed Arkansas (25-17, 10-9) over .500 in SEC action after starting out 1-5 and was also its 11th win in 14 April games.
"I just feel fortunate that our guys kept playing," Van Horn said. "That's five or six comeback wins in the last three or four weeks and it has really helped flip this season around for us. We just keep playing."
Andrew Benintendi, who went into the game tied for the national lead in homers with 14 and ended the contest batting .380, was 3-of-4 and extended his consecutive on-base streak to 13 at-bats before fanning after his teammates delivered their clutch hits.
"That is a pretty good streak right there," Van Horn said. "That is crazy. A lot of things have to go your way at the plate obviously. You have to get your hits. They have been pitching with caution to him, especially the right handers. He has been ahead in the count and he has laid off a lot of bunch of pitches.
"He has done a lot of damage once he gets on base. He steals bases and maybe they speed up and don't hit their spots and it gives the hitters behind him a chance to get a better pitch. He has opened some things up for us when he is on base."
Zach Jackson blew the save while pitching 3 2/3 innings, but got the win when the Razorbacks - who lost a 5-1 lead - rallied with the two runs in the eighth.
He fanned Jake Vickerson to end a game in which the Bulldogs (22-20, 6-13) out-hit the Razorbacks 15-9.
Serrano's hit was a big one, but he thinks it is just a matter of everybody stepping up in Arkansas' recent success.
"It felt good, but I just did what anybody else would have done," Serrano said. "I think if you replaced me with anybody else in the line up, they would have done that. I have that much confidence in our team."
Wes Rea was 5-of-5 with 5 RBIs for Mississippi State in the loss.
"We couldn't find a way to get Wes Rea tonight," Van Horn said. "He almost single-handedly got after us there pretty good with five RBIs and five hits."
Rea's homer came after Arkansas' Rick Nomura couldn't get a bunt down that would have moved runners to second and third with one out and after Bobby Wernes, who had earlier drove home two runs, hit into an inning-ending double play.
"I just feel fortunate to win the game," Van Horn said. "We didn't execute a bunt that could have given us maybe a two- or three-run lead there in the seventh. When you don't get the bunt down, usually you hit one real hard at them and they turn a double play.
"It is just kind of the way the game works. A lot of times if you do things right, it rewards you and if you don't, it will get you. I have seen it a thousand times."
Razorback starting pitcher Trey Killian was perhaps a pitch away from exiting in the first inning Friday night before finding the zone.
Instead after throwing 37 pitches in the opening inning, Killian ended up staying in and hurling 102 while going 5 1/3 innings against the Bulldogs.
Killian, who threw a first pitch strike to only nine of the 28 batters he faced, had allowed a run and had the bases loaded with a 3-0 count on Brent Rooker with one out.
He came back to fan Rooker swinging on three straight pitches and then also whiffed John Holland after going 3-1 to escape the frame with limited damage.
"He was real close to coming out," Van Horn said. "We just didn't know if he had the command. if you get hit around a little bit, you can live with that, but all of a sudden he is falling behind hitter after hitter and that's not him. So we were awfully concerned.
"But bang, he gets out of the inning and gives another four inning or something like that and we punch in four."
Arkansas rallied to take a 4-1 lead in the third inning with runs scoring on an error, a wild pitch and Wernes’ two-out, two-run double.
That edge grew to 5-1 in the fourth when Eagan launched a pitch over the left field fence for his second homer of the season.
Mississippi State got a run back in the fifth and Rea’s fourth hit of the game - a two-run single - cut it to 5-4 in the sixth.
Jackson got the last two outs of the sixth and ended up stranding the tying run in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
"I didn't feel like my velocity was dropping or anything and I felt like as I went along my off-speed pitches got a little better," Jackson said. "I went a little bit more with a heavy fastball as the innings went on, but I felt like my off-speed and my placement of it got as better as I went."
The two teams will meet again Saturday at 6:05.
Arkansas 7, Mississippi State 6
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