Red-hot Arkansas delighted a packed Baum Stadium crowd with a rare Saturday gem with a 6-1 victory over Mississippi State to clinch a fifth straight SEC series victory. It gave the Razorbacks a 12-3 record in the month of April and it was their 15th victory in 20 games.
Paid attendance was a record 12,589, with 10,837 in the park. That's the third most actual attendance in Baum history.
Brett McAfee broke open a scoreless game with a two-run double in the fourth and added an RBI single in the seventh. Starter Dominic Taccolini (6-3) cruised until two outs in the seventh to give the Razorbacks only their second Saturday win of the SEC season.
Arkansas (26-17, 11-9) will try for their first SEC sweep of the season at 1 p.m. Sunday. Freshman Keaton McKinney (3-1) gets the ball for the Hogs. Austin Sexton (3-4) pitches for State (22-21, 6-14).
"It was a pretty good performance by Dominic Taccolini," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "His experience last year as a reliever helped him get out of a jam in the fourth. He made some terrific pitches with runners in scoring position and that propelled us into a good offensive at bat."
Taccolini gave up a leadoff walk to Wes Rea, then a double to Jacob Robson. Taccolini got the first out on a dynamite breaker to John Holland. Ryan Gridley bounced back to Taccolini, who threw home to get Rea. He got Gridley on a pop up.
Taccolini walked the leadoff man in the seventh. A wild pitch moved him to second and two straight ground outs brought in the lone MSU run. Lance Phillips got the final out in the seventh. James Teague gave up only one walk in recording the final six outs.
The Bulldogs stranded nine runners after leaving 13 in a 7-6 loss on Friday night. Van Horn said it's a sign of good pitching.
"When you are stranding runners, your pitchers are making good pitches with men in scoring position," Van Horn said. "Our offense has been steady all along and so has our defense. It's just been a matter of our pitchers picking it up."
McAfee's double was just inside the bag at first, eluding a diving Rea.
"McAfee did a nice job with that pitch," Van Horn said. "It was a pitch away and he hit it down the line. That was a two-out, two-strike pitch and it was the biggest hit of the game."
The Hogs added a run in the fourth when pinch hitter Carson Shaddy was drilled in the back with the bases loaded.
"Those were three big runs," Van Horn said. "That allowed us to relax a little bit."
McAfee said, "I was just trying not to do too much with it. It was a fast ball away. I wanted to just try to shoot it between the fielders. It was huge to strike first and get the momentum. Dominic was setting them down.
"I'm just trying to stay relaxed up there and not get tense. It's just a mindset more than something physical."
Taccolini allowed just four hits. He struck out five and walked four. He benefited from another perfect defensive game from the defense. The Hogs have committed only one error in their last eight games to raise their fielding percentage to a sterling .980 on the season.
McAfee said it's all going right for the Hogs. They have not won five straight SEC series since 2004.
"Our pitching staff has been great," McAfee said. "They got us rolling. We are playing good defense, too. Anytime you do that, you can go a long way with a few clutch hits."
Arkansas 6, Mississippi State 1
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