MSU never trailed in the game, taking a 4-1 lead on UA starter Clint Brannon (1-1) in the first three innings. J.B. Tucker drew a bases-loaded, two-out walk to plate a run in the first and Jon Mungle singled and later scored on Steve Gendron's sacrifice fly to center field to put State up 2-0 in the second.
"I thought that (Cliff) Brandon was very effective," said Polk of Brandon's performance coming into the game. "He was pretty much the guy who shut down South Carolina in Columbia last week. I felt like we had a pretty good game plan against him."
Bulldog starter Alan Johnson (3-0) scattered seven hits, struck out two and stayed away from big-inning problems early during his six-inning mound stint. Arkansas threatened to score but came up empty after getting a pair of two-out singles in the first inning and then parlayed a walk, a hit batsman, a single by Kirk McConnell and an infield groundout by Scott Bridges to score a run in the second.
State answered with a pair of runs to expand its lead to 4-1 In the third. Craig Tatum and Tucker delivered singles and later scored on Joseph Hunter's tiple to right-center field.
"That wasn't an easy pitch from my perspective," said Polk, talking about Hunter's hit. "He did a heck of a job of just dropping the head of the bat."
Clay Goodwin singled to right with two outs, advanced a base on a fielding error, and Nick Pitts singled him home to make it a 4-2 game in the bottom of the third. UA's Haas Pratt closed the gap further when he opened the fifth inning with his sixth home run of the season. But it would be the final run on the afternoon for Arkansas, limited to two walks and two singles the remainder of the game.
State erupted for six hits and scored three times in the seventh off relief pitcher Boyd Goodner. Goodner had retired nine in a row coming into the inning. Matthew Maniscalco opened the frame with his second home run of the season and on the next pitch Steve Gendron extended his hitting streak to a career-best 13 games with his first roundtripper of the year. Brad Corley and Matthew Brinson followed with singles and Brent Lewis lofted a pinch-hit sacrifice fly to score Corley and give the Bulldogs a 7-3 lead.
"It looked like Boyd Goodner hit a wall," said Polk "Looking at the stats, he had only thrown 10 innings. His pitch count had probably gotten to 35 or 40 and he was probably not used to that. I thought that he was very effective."
State wrapped up its scoring in the eighth when Jon Mungle opened the inning with a double and came home on a pinch-hit single up the middle by Jeff Butts.
Relief man Jonathan Papelbon struck out five Razorbacks in three innings of shutout pitching to close out the game and earn his first save of the year.
"I was very proud of Allan Johnson and Jonathan Papelbon," said Polk. "They pumped strikes in and only walked three.
"So far, our pitching, in regard to Paul (Maholm), Allan (Johnson) and (Jonathan) Papelbon, have really done a heck of a job."
Maniscalco, Corley, Tatum, Tucker and Mungle had two hits each while Gendron and Hunter had two-RBI outings. Eight of the nine starters had at least a hit in the game.
"Up and down the lineup, we did a pretty good job of swinging the bat," said Polk. "We are doing a real good job of making good adjustments at the plate."
State, with wins in seven of the last nine meetings with Arkansas, closes out the series and a season-longest five-game road trip Sunday at 1 p.m.
"They have a boy that beat us last year, Jarrett Gardner (3-0, 4.25), going against us," said Polk. "(Sophomore lefty) Todd Nicholas (2-0, 1.96) will go on the hill for us. Arkansas has a lot of left-handed hitters. They are pretty much a left-handed lineup."
MISSISSIPPI STATE 8, ARKANSAS 3
MSU 112 000 310 --- 8-14-1
ARK 011 010 000 --- 3-9-0
WP --- Alan Johnson (3-0). LP --- Clint Brannon (1-1). HR --- (MSU) Matthew Maniscalco (2), Steve Gendron (1). (ARK) Haas Pratt (6). T --- 2:44. ATT --- 4,073.
Alan Johnson, Jonathan Papelbon (7) and J.B. Tucker. Clint Brannon, Boyd Goodner (4), Josh Merryman (7), Ryan Fox (9) and Brady Toops.
Gene Swindoll is the publisher and owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial site for Mississippi State sports since October, 1996. He can be reached by email at email@example.com