STARKVILLE, Miss. - Zack Cox was 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI and Brett Eibner drove in three runs to lead the No. 9 University of Arkansas baseball team to an 8-3 win over Mississippi State Friday evening at Dudy Noble Field. The victory also gives head coach Dave Van Horn his 300th win at Arkansas. Drew Smyly picked up the win on the mound for the Hogs.
"It's a big win for us on a Friday night," Cox said. "We got a good outing from Smyly and the hitters came out to get him some runs, so it was big to come in here and get the first win (of the series) tonight."
The 12th head coach in Razorback baseball history, Van Horn is in eighth season at Arkansas. He is the second head coach in program history, joining Norm DeBriyn, to earn 300 victories during the course of his Razorback career.
Friday's starters controlled the first three innings before the Razorbacks broke through for the game's first run in the top of the fourth. With one out in the frame, Cox tripled down the right-field line and came in to score on a sacrifice fly by designated hitter Andy Wilkins which gave Arkansas (24-6, 7-3 SEC) the early 1-0 lead. The RBI was Wilkins' 40th of the season.
Mississippi State (16-14, 3-7 SEC) got that run back with one swing of the bat by Nick Vickerson in the home half of the fourth. The Bulldog leadoff hitter tied the score with a solo shot to left, his third home run of the season. Prior to the home run, Smyly had retired the first nine hitters of the ballgame, seven by way of a groundout.
The Hogs put together a three-run sixth to regain the lead. With one down, Bo Bigham singled and Cox drew a walk to give Arkansas a pair of base runners. After a double steal during a Wilkins at-bat, Bigham and Cox crossed the plate on an two-run base hit by Eibner. Monk Kreder extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a double to the gap in left center and Eibner motored around from first to score to put the Razorbacks ahead, 4-1.
Smyly walked his first hitter of the game to lead off the bottom of the sixth. Sam Frost, recipient of the walk, eventually came around to score the Bulldogs' second run. Luke Adkins drove in the run but was thrown out at third trying to stretch a double into a triple.
In the top of the seventh, the Arkansas bats chased Bulldog starter Caleb Reed from the contest with one out after a single by James McCann and double by Collin Kuhn. Mississippi State brought in Devin Jones out of the bullpen to face Bigham. The Razorback infielder drove in McCann from third with a groundout to the shortstop. Cox provided the big blow of the inning with a two-run shot to left field, his sixth home run of the season.
The Bulldogs tacked a third run in their half of the seventh. Ryan Collins led off the inning with a single to center. He moved over to third on a one-out double by Jet Butler. Jonathan Ogden picked up the RBI with a groundout to the shortstop.
Smyly matched his season high with seven innings of work against Mississippi State and allowed three runs-all earned-on five hits. He struck out four Bulldog hitters and walked two in a season-high 121 pitches. Smyly improved to 4-0 this season. He gave way to Mike Bolsinger who pitched the final two innings of the game to secure the win.
Arkansas padded its lead with a run in the top of the ninth. With Bigham on first, Bulldog reliever Devin Jones walked three consecutive hitters to load the bases and, subsequently, walk in the Hogs' final run. Eibner picked up the RBI with the bases-loaded pass.
Game two of the weekend SEC matchup between Arkansas and Mississippi State is scheduled for Saturday with a 2 p.m. first pitch at Polk-DeMent Stadium at Dudy Noble Field. Eibner (2-2, 4.05 ERA) is set to start for the Razorbacks while the Bulldogs will counter with Chris Stratton (3-3, 3.75 ERA).