Razorbacks Make Early Outburst Stand Up

Danny Hamblin's three-run homer in the top of the first inning of the afternoon got Arkansas off to a fast start en route to a 6-2 victory over Mississippi state in game-one of a Saturday SEC doubleheader at Dudy Noble Field.

That shot, as well as subsequent expansions in the third and fourth frames, was more than enough support for Razorback pitcher Nick Schmidt. The lefthander put in seven complete innings and was charged with just one Bulldog run, that in the second. Schmidt (7-2) was able to keep State on ‘1' for the rest of his afternoon as he scattered eight base hits with a couple of walks while striking out a career-best eight batters.

By complete contrast, MSU's Brooks Dunn was only able to work into the third inning and record an official 2.1 frames before being pulled after the shortest stint from a State starter this season. The lefthander was tagged with just one base hit by the dozen ‘Backs he faced, but of course that lone safety was Hamblin's homer. The real problem for Dunn (6-3) was control as he struggled to hit corners, especially against righthanded hitters, and walked four Arkansans, all of whom were driven home.

The fast hook meant reliever Mike Valentine was given the thankless task of burning a lot of innings, and the righthander acquitted himself admirably. Valentine battled through 5.2 frames with eight hits to his account. Those first two safeties plated runners put on by Dunn, while Valentine was charged with one other Arkansas score. He did not walk anyone and struck out a pair before giving the ball to Jon Crosby to take care of the eighth.

The most frustrating lines on the final box score for the Bulldogs were the totals for both base hits and left-on-base. State matched Arkansas with ten hits, and while the Razorbacks had two doubles the Dogs got a triple. Both hit one ball out of the park, though State's was a solo shot in the eighth by centerfielder Joseph Hunter for the other MSU run. The difference was what Arkansas did with their other safeties, and even more those early bases-on-balls that became the margin of eventual victory.

Meanwhile State followed a season-long trend of getting guys on the basepaths only to leave almost all of them unscored. This time a total of 11 Dogs were stranded.

The game started at the scheduled Saturday hour of 2:00, but it was the lineups from Friday's rained-out contest taking the field. Or in Arkansas' case, the batting order. And Razorback swingers took advantage of having first turn to take control immediately at Dunn's expense.

The senior southpaw hurt his own cause as, after opening with a fly-ball out, he walked consecutive batters. On 1-1 Dunn located a strike on the outer half of the dish, but righthanded slugger Hamblin was able to extend and get all of it. Even with the wind blowing in his high drive cleared the fence right-centerfield, giving Hamblin his 11th homer of the year and Arkansas a 3-0 lead.

Dunn retired the UA side his second time-out, but in the third, after State had shaved a run off the deficit, Dunn again put a pair on via balls with one out and Hamblin coming up again. That was enough to force an early change with Valentine taking over. He got Hamblin to fly out to shortstop, but Arkansas also made a smart move with lefty David Hum pinch-hitting against righty Valentine. He lined a single into rightfield for one RBI, and Matt Willard bounced a base hit over the third baseman for another run and 5-1 Razorback advantage.

Arkansas added another run in their fourth, as Stephen Robison bunted his way on and was sacrificed along a bag where he could score on a double by Chris Hollensworth. That was all the Razorback offense, and more than enough to hold up.

State put a pair on in the first turn against Schmidt with singles by second baseman Jeffrey Rea and DH Brian LaNinfa, both of whom stayed stranded. The second inning was a bit more productive though a pair were still left unscored. Catcher Joseph McCaskill led off with a single and was forced at second as first baseman Brad Jones reached on the dropped relay to first. Rightfielder Matt Richardson dropped a double into the leftfield corner that was covered quickly enough so the lead runner had to hold at third base.

This almost cost the Dogs their one run in the inning as after leftfielder Jeffrey Butts walked to load the bags Rea grounded to the UA second baseman. It took some fast footwork to outrun the relay, prevent a twin-killing, and allow Jones to come home for State's first run. A pop-out by third baseman Edward Easley left Dogs on the corners.

And until Hunter led off the eighth by lining a solo shot over leftfield, that was all of State's offense. Hunter's homer, his second this year, came off UA reliever Devin Collis. The lefty shook that off and got six of the next seven batters out with only Rea reaching on an errored grounder.

Berkery, who missed the two midweek games to attend a family funeral, had a pair of base hits for State, as did LaNinfa. Hollensworth was the only Razorback with multiple hits.

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