Van Horn: "They Just Persevered"

STARKVILLE, Miss. — With three starters out of the lineup for most of the weekend, it's a wonder Arkansas didn't get swept by Mississippi State.

Instead, the No. 12 Razorbacks came one pitch away from sweeping the series that concluded with a 6-4 win in front of 3,580 at Dudy Noble Field on Sunday.

That pitch, a belt-high fastball from freshman Brett Bollman, resulted in a two-run homer by Brian LaNinfa in the bottom of the ninth of a 9-8 MSU win in the nightcap of Saturday's doubleheader.

But simply to win the series without center fielder Craig Gentry (knee infection), right fielder Chris Hollensworth (illness) and second baseman Logan Forsythe (illness) was quite an accomplishment.

"The kids did everything we asked of them this weekend, especially with everything that went down," Van Horn said. "Playing outfielders at second base in conference games is crazy, but they just persevered.

"I told them that this has been one of the best weekends we've had as a team since I've been here. Just the way we hung in there being kind of undermanned."

By taking two of three games, Arkansas won a series against the Bulldogs for the first time since 1999. The Hogs had lost nine of their last 12 games in the series and coach Dave Van Horn entered the weekend with a 2-7 mark against MSU since arriving at Arkansas.

"They've had our number," Van Horn said. "Probably of all the years that I thought it would be tough to beat them with all that went down, this is the year on the road ... And we almost swept them."

With their fourth straight series win, the Hogs stayed in the hunt for the Southeastern Conference Western Division title. Arkansas (30-12, 10-8 in the SEC) trails divisional leader Alabama by three games after the Tide swept Vanderbilt this weekend.

"It was a big series win for us," Van Horn said. "Big for our confidence and keeping us hanging around the top."

Arkansas starter Shaun Seibert (3-0) kept the Bulldogs on a tight leash by scattering four hits through six scoreless innings. He benefited from an offense that scored in five of its first six at-bats to take a 6-0 lead.

After a scoreless first, the Razorbacks got on the board in the second on a two-out, two-run double down the left-field line by Clint Arnold, who had a hit in each of his first three at-bats and finished 4-for-5.

They added single runs in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth. Brian Walker and Stephen Robison clubbed solo homers in the third and fourth innings, respectively. Robison then successfully executed a suicide squeeze bunt that scored Walker, who reached on a leadoff walk, from third base in the fifth inning.

Danny Hamblin then hit the team's third solo blast of the game to straight away center field in the sixth. It was his second homer in as many days and his team-leading 12th of the season.

In the seventh, Mississippi State (29-11, 8-9) finally got to Seibert as Thomas Berkery and Brian LaNinfa led off with consecutive singles. Both runs would score off reliever Charley Boyce, who walked one and hit another.

Boyce was pulled after facing only three batters.

Devin Collis took over from there and two more runs would score to trim Arkansas' lead to 6-4 on an error by second baseman Stephen Robison. The play started with a sharp grounder to shortstop Matt Willard, whose throw sailed past Robison into right field.

But that's all the Bulldogs would get off Collis as he retired the final seven batters to record his team-leading seventh save.

"Collis came in and did his job," Van Horn said. "He got a double play ball and the throw was a little bit to the right, but an experienced second baseman catches that ball and turns and throws it. (Robison) tried to catch it and throw it at the same time and the ball ends up in right field. That cost us maybe one or two runs and a little momentum.

"But then Devin just came in and did a super job. He came in with a look in his eye and did a great job for us."

Seibert struggled with control early and even received a visit to the mound by UA pitching coach Dave Jorn five pitches into the game. Two pitches later, he got a much-needed double play to help escape the first inning unscathed.

After that, Seibert found his groove. Instead of getting behind, the sophomore started throwing more first pitch strikes by establishing his fastball early in counts. The result was retiring 12 of 13 batters he faced from the third through sixth innings.

"Down in the bullpen, I was locating well and everything was there," said Seibert, who threw 46 strikes in 70 pitches to complete his longest outing of the season. "Then when I got out on the hill, I don't know if it was adrenaline or what, but it wasn't the same.

"Coach Jorn said just to go back to who you were in the bullpen and that got my mind off the first five pitches and everything started working for me and it paid off with a big win for us."


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