The Razorbacks downed Mississippi State 5-1 in the opener Sunday afternoon before falling 12-4 in the nightcap of a twinbill attended by 6,104 fans at Baum Stadium.
"I told our team that we gave them extra outs (in the second game), we didn't throw strikes, we didn't play good defense, but I am real proud of them for winning the first eight in a row," Razorback head coach Dave Van Horn said. "Now we're 8-1, shake it off and learn from the game and get better."
The split of the two seven-inning games gave Arkansas (19-5, 8-1) two out of three this weekend against the Bulldogs (15-11, 3-6).
"There were a lot of good things that went on this weekend," Van Horn said. "We would have liked to have won all three, but that's rare in this league."
Arkansas got a great effort in the opening game from starting pitcher T.J. Forrest, who allowed just one run on four hits while going five innings.
"I went out there and just tried to keep the ball down and throw some strikes," Forrest said. "The defense played really well today. I don't think we had any errors. I just threw a lot of strikes and kept them guessing with different pitches."
Forrest (2-1, 3.44) clearly worked quicker than he had in previous contests.
"We have been working on trying to get the catcher to get the signals, put them down and let's get the pitch going," Forrest said. "We don't want the hitter standing in there getting comfortable so we are trying to work on getting faster. I probably picked up the pace a lot better than I had in the past."
Mississippi State got its only run in the opening frame – but barely.
Ryan Duffy singled to center to score Jet Butler – although it appeared very close as to whether he crossed the plate before Connor Powers was thrown out at third.
Forrest helped his own cause in that inning by throwing leadoff hitter Grant Hogue out at third for the first out of the inning.
"Our team is playing really well right now and I don't think we showed our bats today the way we have been," Forrest said. "If we hit the ball, we are a very dangerous team. So as long as our pitching comes through and the hitting comes through, we are going to do really, really well in conference."
The Razorbacks grabbed the lead in the third when Travis Sample and Andy Wilkins both connected on RBI singles to put the home team up 2-1.
It grew to 3-1 in the fourth when Brett Eibner cranked his second homer of the season.
Arkansas then added a pair of fifth-inning runs when Ben Tschepikow doubled, rode home on Colin Kuhn's single and Wilkins plated on Eibner's sacrifice fly.
The only real drama after that came in the sixth when Mississippi State got a couple of runners on with one out to chase Forrest.
But relief pitcher Mike Bolsinger came in, got an immediate double play and then fanned the next batter to end the threat.
"That was real nice," Forrest said. "That was my ERA out there on those bases. He came in there, made a great pitch and got a 5-4-3 double play and then struck a guy out. He's shown he came come in during clutch situations and get people out."
Forrest said he took the same mentality into the seven-inning game as he would a nine-inning contest.
"I just tried to go out there and go as long as I could," Forrest said. "We have got plenty of guys in the bullpen, closers, so I just went out there and tried to keep the pitch count down and I was just shooting for the whole game. Five innings got us a win so that is good enough for me."
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Mississippi State jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the nightcap by chasing Arkansas starter Drew Smyly before he could record a second out in the first inning.
Powers had an RBI double and Cody Freeman a run-scoring single in an inning where the Razorbacks committed a pair of errors.
"Give them credit," Van Horn said. "They came out and got after us. We didn't get off to a good start. We didn't play good defense, we didn't throw enough strikes. Smyly didn't have it. He couldn't hit spots with his fastball and his breaking ball wasn't working."
Mississippi State got a complete game effort from Nick Routt (3-1), who gave up three earned runs on nine hits while fanning 7 and walking 3.
Arkansas cut it to 4-2 in bottom half of the first on Tschepikow's run-scoring groundout and Wilkin's RBI single.
It became 4-3 in the third on Eibner's RBI single that got Sample home.
But the Bulldogs grabbed the momentum right back with single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth to take a 7-4 lead.
Arkansas' only tally during that time came on Wilkins' fifth-inning bomb.
The Razorbacks did have the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the sixth, but Routt fanned Scott Lyons to end the threat.
Lyons' 13-game hitting streak ended with that at-bat.
Mississippi State then got five in its final at-bat to salvage a win.
"It seemed like we couldn't get their leadoff hitter out," Van Horn said. Whoever led off for them was on base. I know at least 6 of 7 (actually 5) innings and maybe all of them. We were still in the game to the sixth inning and then they punched five in."
Arkansas will resume action Tuesday night against Missouri State in Springfield before heading to South Carolina next weekend.
The Razorbacks whipped the Bears 10-0 back on Wednesday with Eibner starting as he will again on Tuesday.
"Like I told our guys, we don't play any gimmes the rest of the year," Van Horn said. "They are all good."
Travis Sample dives back to home plate after eluding Mississippi State catcher Scott DeLoach's tag in the the Razorbacks' 5-1 win in the opener of a twinbill on Sunday.
Photos by Sarah Berrett