MSU Gets Crucial Friday Night Win at Arkansas

Sophomore right-hander Chad Crosswhite made the most of his first start of the 2007 campaign Friday night. Chosen to replace MSU's injured regular Friday night starter, Aaron Weatherford, Crosswhite turned in a career performance against #3 and SEC West-leading Arkansas as #23 Mississippi State topped the Razorbacks 11-9 in the opening game of a three-game series at UA's Baum Stadium/Cole Field.

Crosswhite (3-1) allowed four runs on nine hits and fanned a career-best six over a career-longest six innings to spark the Bulldogs to their fourth win over a top 10-ranked SEC foe. The four runs and eight of the nine hits came during the first three frames when Arkansas jumped out to a 4-3 advantage. But the Bulldog sophomore held Arkansas scoreless over the next three innings before giving way to relief pitchers John Lalor and Mitch Moreland, who fought off Arkansas uprisings over the final three frames to nail down the Bulldogs' third SEC road win in four games.

Junior catcher Edward Easley sparked the Bulldog offense and matched a career mark for hits in a game with a 4-for-5, 3-RBI plate performance. Easley smacked his eighth home run of the campaign, a three-run shot to left-center that gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the game at 3-2. Arkansas lead-off hitter Jake Dugger, who went 4-for-6 and drove in three runs, hit a solo home run to open the game for Arkansas and singled in a another run in the second.

The Bulldogs overcame that early deficit with Easley's home run off Arkansas starter Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel, like Crosswhite, was a Friday night replacement, filling in for Razorback ace lefty Nick Schmidt, scratched from the lineup after sustaining an ankle injury at a Thursday practice. Keuchel gave up the lead when MSU struck for a pair of runs in the fourth. With two runners on base, Jeff Flagg lofted a towering fly ball that bounced off the top of the right field fence for a two-run triple. After Jeffrey Rea opened the fifth reaching on a fielding error, Easley and Mitch Moreland laced back-to-back run-scoring doubles for a 7-4 State lead.

Arkansas replaced Keuchel in the sixth with Brian McClelland, who retired seven of the first eight Bulldog batters he faced before yielding a solo home run to MSU senior designated hitter Brian LaNinfa. Julius Jacob, who hit a two-run home run off Crosswhite for a 4-3 Arkansas lead in the third, added a solo blast in the seventh off Bulldog junior relief man John Lalor. Lalor sandwiched strikeouts around a walk to open the eighth inning before Arkansas launched its fourth long ball of the evening, a two-run shot by Jeff Nutt that pulled the Razorbacks to within a run at 8-7.

State expanded its lead in the ninth, plating three runs on hits by Mark Goforth, Jeffrey Rea and Brandon Turner. The first run of the inning scored when Mitch Moreland reached on a fielding error. Turner's bloop bases-loaded single to shallow left plated another run and an infield groundout by Brian LaNinfa closed out the Bulldog scoring off Jess Todd, the last of three Arkansas pitchers in the game.

Arkansas made the three-hour, 27-minute game interesting in the ninth inning. Bulldog relief ace Mitch Moreland came on to strike out the first two batters he faced. But the division-leading Razorbacks got a bloop single by Brian Walker and back-to-back run-scoring doubles by Matt Willard and Jack Dugger to make it an 11-9 game before Moreland retired Ben Tschepikow on a pop up to first baseman Brian LaNinfa.

In addition to Easley's four-hit performance, Brandon Turner and Mark Goforth collected two hits each and Brian LaNinfa, Mitch Moreland and Jeff Flagg drove in two runs apiece.

Keuchel (3-2) took the loss. He was charged with seven runs (six earned) on seven hits with two walks and six strikeouts in five innings. Both McClelland and Todd allowed two runs, combing for six strikeouts over the final four innings.

A crowd of 2,209 braved brisk northerly winds and gametime temperatures that dropped below the freezing mark by game's end.

The series continues at 2 p.m. Saturday at Baum Stadium/Cole Field, with MSU junior lefty Justin Pigott (2-3) matching up with Arkansas right-hander Duke Welker (4-1).

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