FAYETTEVILLE - After a nine-game homestand, the No. 9 University of Arkansas baseball returns to the road this weekend to take on Mississippi State in Southeastern Conference play. Game one is set for a 6:30 p.m. start Friday at Polk-DeMent Stadium in Starkville, Miss., with Saturday's game two scheduled for a 2 p.m. first pitch. The series finale will go off Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
Mississippi State leads the all-time series with Arkansas, 42-29. Last season, the Hogs took two of three from MSU in Fayetteville to win the series. In the last meeting in Starkville, the Bulldogs came away with two of the three contests. The Razorbacks are 10-20 against Mississippi State in games played on the Bulldogs' home field. In the last 10 games of the series, each team has won five times. Arkansas and Mississippi State first met in 1960.
The Razorbacks carry a 23-6 record and 6-3 mark in conference play into this weekend's series. In its last outing, Arkansas set a school record for runs scored in an inning with 14 scores in the first inning of a 32-8 win over Saint Louis. The team's run total is one off the school record of 33 set back in 1984 against Southwest Baptist. As a team, the Hogs equaled the program record with 30 RBI against the Billikens.
Arkansas is 9-1 in its last 10 games, including an 8-1 recording during its nine-game homestand. The Razorbacks' 6-3 conference record has the team in second place in the SEC Western Division, one game behind LSU. This season, Arkansas is 5-3 on the road.
Zack Cox continues to pace the Hogs with his .430 batting average, the second-best mark in the SEC. He has hit safely in 28 of Arkansas' 29 games this season. Collin Kuhn is hitting .394 for the Razorbacks. His batting average is fifth in the conference. The Hogs' leadoff hitter is also second in the league with 37 runs scored. Kuhn has reached base in nine consecutive plate appearances.
Monk Kreder has bumped his batting average to .300 during his 11-game hitting streak. Travis Sample is also experiencing a recent surge at the plate. In the last three games, the Razorback junior is 8-for-10 with five runs scored, five RBI and two walks. Collectively, the Hogs are hitting .322, the fourth-best figure in the SEC.
On the mound, Drew Smyly and Brett Eibner are scheduled to start games one and two, respectively, against Mississippi State. Sunday's starter is yet to be determined. Smyly leads the SEC with a 1.60 ERA and is eighth in the league with 41 strikeouts. He is the reigning SEC Pitcher of the Week. Eibner is 2-2 with a 4.05 ERA in seven appearances-all starters-this season. In 33.1 innings of work, he has walked just five hitters. Arkansas' pitching staff is fourth in the league with a 3.82 team ERA.
Mississippi State enters the three-game set with a 16-13 overall record and a 3-6 tally in the SEC. The Bulldogs are hitting .281 as a team. The club is led by senior first baseman Connor Powers who has a .390 batting average, nine home runs and SEC-best 43 RBI. Mississippi State will start RHP Caleb Reed in Friday's game, RHP Chris Stratton in Saturday's contest and has yet to announce a starter for Sunday.
Jarrod McKinney did not travel with the team after suffering a torn ACL in Arkansas' game against Saint Louis. No timetable has been set for McKinney's return to the Razorback lineup. The Hughes Springs, Texas, native has appeared in 22 games this season and has a .190 batting average with one home run, five RBI and 14 runs scored.
Fans can tune in to this weekend's action on the Razorback Sports Network from ISP. Chuck Barrett will be in the booth as the network's play-by-play announcer. There will also be an audio stream available at the online home of Razorback athletics, ArkansasRazorbacks.com.