Arkansas 13, Mississippi State 3
Arkansas might have found itself a new conference starting pitcher Sunday and in the process found itself in sole possession of first place in the Southeastern Conference western division.
Randall Fant pitched seven strong innings as the No. 10 Razorbacks beat Mississippi State 13-3. Arkansas' sixth consecutive win, coupled with an LSU loss to Auburn, propelled the Hogs into first place in the SEC West.
It wasn't a good start for the left-hander Fant, who walked his first two batters in eight pitches. He didn't walk another batter the rest of the afternoon, though, and gave up just two hits and one run while retiring the final 14 batters he faced in the first road start of his career.
"It seemed the zone was really tight the first inning. He got frustrated and he almost gave up a three-run homer on a deep sacrifice fly," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "He held them to one run and it just seemed like he got better and better. From the fourth inning-on he was really good, he started throwing his breaking ball and changeup for a strike. And it was just making the fastball look that much better.
"I'm proud of the team for not just hanging out and taking what they could get today. We were real aggressive and went after it. We played like a mature team today and that was good to see."
Fant pitched with the lead the entire game, but Arkansas (26-6, 9-3 SEC) struggled to make it a sizeable one. The Hogs scored two runs in the first and one in each the second and third innings to make it 4-1.
That lead held until Arkansas broke things open in the seventh inning. Bo Bigham's two-run single extended the lead to 6-1 and Brett Eibner's grand slam three batters later gave the Razorbacks a 10-1 advantage.
Arkansas recorded 20 hits on the afternoon, but left 12 runners on base. Arkansas recorded 44 hits for the weekend just a week after recording 48 hits in a series against Kentucky.
"We've been swinging it good for the last couple of weeks," Van Horn said. "Our team batting average has gone from the .280s to about .330, .340 coming in here, and we raised it a bunch. We knew we were going to have a good offensive team in the fall. It didn't happen right away but we knew as we got warmer and saw more pitches that we'd get it going. And we've had it going a couple of weeks now."
Mississippi State (16-16, 3-9) scored a pair in the eighth inning off Razorback reliever Geoffrey Davenport but the Razorbacks fought back with three runs in the ninth thanks to an Andy Wilkins two-run single and an Eibner RBI single.
Eibner finished the game 3-for-5 with five RBIs and a walk.
Arkansas has now won 13 of its last 14 games. The Razorbacks return home for a six-game homestand beginning Tuesday night with New Mexico at Baum Stadium.
Around the Bases
Zack Cox finished Sunday's game 3-for-6 with two RBIs. Cox, who began the season with a 24-game hitting streak, has now reached base in all 32 games this season and extended his current hitting streak to seven games...Speaking of hitting streaks, both Monk Kreder (14) and Collin Kuhn (11) extended their hitting streaks Sunday. Kuhn was hit by a pitch in the ninth inning. He has been hit by 16 pitches this season - six shy of the school record...Travis Sample finished Sunday 3-for-3 at the plate. The sophomore outfielder is now 11-for-16 in SEC play.
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