Razorbacks Break Away For 8-3 Win

For a while Mississippi State's young staff was able to hang zeroes on the Arkansas line. But the leading offense in the SEC was not going to be contained all evening. "They've got a good team or obviously they wouldn't be the number-nine team in the country," Bulldog pitcher Caleb Reed said. "If you make a bad pitch, they're going to let you know about it."

The Razorbacks did just that. Held mostly in-check for five innings, Arkansas broke a tied game open with three runs in both their sixth and seventh turns to take a 8-3 series-opening victory at Dudy Noble Field. The Razorbacks stayed a step behind LSU at the head of the Western Division at 7-3, 24-6 overall; while the Bulldogs are 16-14, 3-7 SEC.

Still it wasn't until two outs into their sixth the visitors asserted themselves as a top-ten team; or put their league-best .330 (SEC games only) average into action. To that point the game was developing much as Coach John Cohen hoped, with a 1-1 scoreboard. "For us to win a game of that nature it's got to be like 5-4, 4-3, in that range," Cohen said. "They're a good club."

Good enough to take care of a tiring Reed who otherwise made his first conference start worth watching. The sophomore righthander came to the mound in the sixth after allowing one Razorback run on four hits. He left an inning later down 4-2 with what proved the winning Arkansans on bases. Reed (0-3) still turned in the longest Friday stint of State's season at 6.1 innings, with a final line of six runs on nine hits, a walk and five strikeouts.

"I think I did pretty good, but it wasn't good enough obviously," said Reed. His coach was more complimentary. ""I was pleased with the way Caleb competed. You can't ask for anything more." Well, other than having a Drew Smyly on the hill as Arkansas did.

The Razorback lefthander had an excellent outing, going 7.0 complete innings to earn the decision. Smyly (4-0) gave five hits and three runs. He struck out four Bulldogs and walked two in a tour that lasted 121 pitches. "Smyly is good," said Cohen. "You look at his numbers, he's doing that a whole lot. He may be SEC Pitcher of the Week again. He's a very effective lefthander, the delivery and stuff is very hard to get your barrel to."

Though, when Mississippi State did get enough barrel on ball things happened. Such as a leadoff home run in the bottom of the fourth by 3B Nick Vickerson. And an RBI-double by LF Luke Adkins in the sixth. In fact half of State's hits went for extra bases…but then the Bulldogs only had six total safeties. The last one was off UA closer Mike Bolsinger who otherwise shut everyone down in the final two innings.

Smyly no-hit State through his first three turns, which Vickerson broke-up with his solo shot in the fourth. Reed for his part had a one-hitter going into the fourth with a couple of strikeouts. "I was putting my fastball on both sides of the plate and changing speeds on my slider, keeping them off-balance," Reed said. "And Cody (Freeman) did a great job behind the plate and the defense made a lot of plays behind me."

But there was no defending a one-out skipper down the rightfield line by Zack Cox for a triple, which set up Andy Wilkins for a sacrifice fly. After getting his home run in the fourth, Vickerson kept it 1-1 in the top of the fifth with a smart stab and double-play. But after going through five innings on 50 pitches Reed was losing velocity and location, just in time for the core of Arkansas' order to take advantage. A one-out single and walk led to a double-steal, and Brett Eibner put his team back in front with a single that skipped through Reed and second base for two RBI. Monk Kreder followed with a gapper double scoring Eibner for the 4-1 lead. Reed had to throw 34 pitches in this inning. "I don't need to walk that guy, giving a free bat he just found a way to score."

The Bulldogs were able to shave one run off that deficit in their half. 2B Sam Frost drew a walk and with one out scored as Adkins doubled to the wall in right-center. At least, he ought to have been content with a two-bagger; but Adkins pushed his luck and on a bang-bang call at third was out. It hurt more as 1B Connor Powers walked on a wild pitch, and DH Russ Sneed lifted a fly ball that with one out would have scored. Instead it was a 4-2 game through six.

Reed returned for the seventh, where with one out nine-batter James McCann singled and order-topper Collin Kuhn blooped a sinker to rightfield. Adkins couldn't get it on the dive, and the attempt only allowed both runners to take extra bases. "He's trying to make a big-time play in the outfield," Cohen said, "if he just lets it fall we're 1st-and-2nd and we have a double-play opportunity. This finished Reed for Devin Jones to face Razorbacks batters who'd already accounted for three runs.

They doubled that output. Bigham pounded a grounder that SS Jonathan Ogden had to wait on, getting just the batter-out while McCann scored. Cox no-doubted his shot over right for his sixth homer of the year and a 7-2 lead.

With that margin Smyly was allowed to stay on the mound after a leadoff single by CF Ryan Collins, and double by LF Jet Butler. He limited the damage to a lone run as Ogden grounded-in Collins, with a called strikeout of Frost that completed his stint. Bolsinger got more cushion to work with in the top of the ninth as the top of the order put two on around an out and stole both into scoring positions. Jones issued consecutive walks to force in Bigham before being lifted for Corey Collins to roll a 6-4-3 double-play.

"We all thought we made good pitches those last couple of innings," Reed said. "But they just put good sings on the ball and they found the holes." Arkansas doubled the Dogs' hit total with a dozen safeties, three of them doubles to go with one triplet and the Cox homer. Bigham and Cox combined for five stolen bases as well.

Despite taking the loss Reed made a strong case for staying in the weekend rotation. "I sure hope so, I want to help this team win any way possible, coming out of the pen or starting. But I like the starting role and hope I'll be able to stay in it." Cohen seemed to have decided already. "We're short-handed on Friday nights and the way he competed, I think he'll give us a chance to stay in games."

But winning games is another matter, and lack of offense bit the Bulldogs again. And while there were no errors, Cohen still was frustrated over the seventh-inning blooper that could have been played smarter under the circumstances.

"For now, we have what we have and have to deal with what we have and do the best we can," the coach said. "We have guys trying to make phenomenal things all the time to make up for our deficiencies, they all know what they are. Our kids are trying, competing very hard, they know what we're up against every weekend."

The weekend continues with Saturday's 2:00 game, as freshman righthander Chris Stratton (3-3, 3.75) starts for State, against Razorback righty and outfielder Eibner (2-4, 4.05).

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