HOOVER, Ala. – Arkansas scored the first five runs of the game, including four in the first inning, and the top five batters in the Arkansas order combined to go 12-for-22 with six runs scored and four RBI as the Razorbacks cruised to a 7-2 win over Mississippi State in an elimination game at the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
"It was a lot better start for us today," Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. "I give credit to Bo Bigham in that first at-bat. He fouled off a lot of pitches and finally got a base hit. I think their starting pitcher threw 25 pitches before he got his first out. We did a good job going the other way, hitting some balls through the four hole and we weren’t trying to do too much. DJ (Baxendale) will tell you he didn’t have his best stuff. He was laboring out there, but now he’ll take seven or eight days off before getting ready for the next challenge."
With the win, the Razorbacks improve to 37-19 overall and snap a four-game losing streak at the SEC Tournament. Mississippi State drops to 34-23 with the loss.
The Arkansas offense enjoyed a strong day offensively, recording its 20th double-digit hit game of the season after pounding out 14 hits and scoring seven hits. Most of the production came from the top half of the batting order with Bo Bigham, Collin Kuhn, Dominic Ficociello, James McCann and Kyle Robinson combining to go 12-for-22 with six runs scored and four RBI. McCann had a career-high four hits, scoring twice and driving in two runs, while Bigham, Kuhn, Ficociello and Robinson each added two hits. Bigham, Kuhn and Robinson each had one RBI and Kuhn scored two runs.
Razorback starter DJ Baxendale earned his ninth win of the season, improving to 9-2. The sophomore righty allowed two runs on six hits and struck out three in five innings.
Barrett Astin picked up his third save of the season, throwing four shutout innings. Astin allowed just two hits and struck out four. In two appearances this season against Mississippi State, Astin threw 7.1 shutout innings, striking out 14 and allowing just six hits.
Arkansas also had some timely defense behind Baxendale, getting three double plays to get out of jams. The Razorbacks turned two in the first, fourth and fifth innings. The twin killings in the fourth and fifth ended the innings.
Mississippi State starter Nick Routt took the loss to drop to 2-3 on the year. Routt gave up five runs, four earned, on eight hits and struck out six in 3.1 innings.
Arkansas raced out to an early lead, scoring four runs in the top of the first. Bigham singled and Kuhn walked to put runners at first and second. Ficociello laid down a sacrifice bunt in front of the plate, but the catcher mishandled it, allowing Ficociello to reach to load the bases. A single to right field by McCann scored Bigham for the first run. After a strikeout of Robinson, Matt Reynolds singled to the opposite field, bringing home Kuhn. A fielding error by Jaron Shepherd in right field allowed Ficociello to score as well to make the score 3-0. McCann scored the final run of the inning on a wild pitch by Routt.
The Razorbacks added another run in the fourth. With one out, Kuhn doubled into the left field corner. A single to left by Ficociello advanced Kuhn to third and a base hit by McCann scored Kuhn to put Arkansas in front 5-0.
Mississippi State dented the scoreboard for the first time with two runs in the bottom of the fourth. Jarrod Parks singled to left field on a hard liner off Tim Carver’s glove at short. Parks then reached second when Robinson’s throw to first got past Ficociello. A double to the left-center field alley by Vickerson brought home Parks for the first run of the game for the Bulldogs. Shepherd then found the same spot in the left-center field alley for a double that scored Vickerson. After a walk to Brent Brownlee, Baxendale was able to avoid further trouble as Adam Frazier grounded into a 6-3 double play to end the inning.
Arkansas got one of the runs back in the top of the fifth. Matt Vinson doubled to right field to lead off the inning and then advanced to third on a foul out to the second baseman down the right field line by Jarrod McKinney. Carver then hit a ground ball to third and Vinson was thrown out at the plate for the second out of the inning. After a stolen base by Carver advanced him to second, Bigham lined a single to center field, scoring Carver to put Arkansas in front 6-2.
The Razorbacks stretched the lead back to five with a run in the top of the sixth. With one out, McCann singled and then scored all the way from first on a hit-and-run double to the left-center field alley by Robinson.
Mississippi State was unable to get anything going off Astin for the final four innings, getting just two hits, both in the seventh inning. Astin set down the final seven Bulldog batters he faced.
The Bulldogs were led at the plate by Parks, who had two hits and scored a run. Shepherd and Vickerson accounted for each of the RBI for the Bulldogs.
Arkansas plays in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament on Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. against the loser of this afternoon’s game between third seed Florida and seventh seed Alabama. The game will be televised by CSS and available in Northwest Arkansas on CST.