STARKVILLE, Miss. – The No. 9 University of Arkansas baseball team won game two of its weekend series at Mississippi State, 8-5, Saturday afternoon at Dudy Noble Field. Monk Kreder was 2-for-4 with three RBI to lead a group of four Hogs with two hits. Arkansas (25-6, 8-3 SEC) finished the game with 12 hits. For the 10th consecutive game, the Razorback offense posted a double-digit hit total, the longest such streak since the 2003 team had 12 straight games with at least 10 hits.
"We’ve had a lot of guys come through," head coach Dave Van Horn said. "I feel like we have some depth and if somebody got hurt, we’d have a guy or two that could come in and do the job. We’ve had to mix and match with our infield and outfield. Monk Kreder has done a good job at first and catching. We’ve just had some guys step it up and it’s been fun to watch. The experience they’re gaining is going to help us throughout the season."
Andy Wilkins started Saturday’s game at third and Zack Cox was penciled in at second which moved Bo Bigham out to right for his first career start in the outfield.
Each team stranded two runners in their respective halves of the first. Brett Eibner, making his eighth start of the season, gave up a pair of singles in the bottom of the inning but struck out the side to keep the Bulldogs off the scoreboard.
Mississippi State (16-15, 3-8 SEC) threatened again in the second. With one down, Ryan Collins singled and Wes Thigpen drew a walk, but Eibner responded to strike out the next two hitters to get out of the inning. Despite potential trouble, Eibner had six strikeouts through the first two innings of Saturday’s game.
Kreder pushed his hitting streak to 13 games with a two-out single through the right side of the infield. He to second base on a wild pitch by Mississippi State starter Chris Stratton but was left in scoring position when Tim Carver grounded out to the shortstop to end the inning.
The Hogs pushed through with a run in the top of the fifth to take the lead. Travis Sample led off the inning with an infield single. James McCann followed with a double over the left fielder’s head and Arkansas had runners on second and third with no outs. The Razorbacks were down to their last out without scoring after a pair of nice plays by the MSU third baseman, but Cox delivered an RBI single up the middle to plate McCann.
In the bottom of the inning, Mississippi State tagged Eibner for two runs. With two down, Eibner walked Russ Sneed and Connor Powers followed with a bloop double that fell in between Bigham in right and Cox at second. Sneed scored on the play and Powers pulled into third on an overthrow by Cox. Ryan Duffy drove in the Bulldogs’ second run with a base hit to center. The home team ran itself out of the inning as Duffy was cut down at third on a single by Jet Butler for the final out of the frame.
Eibner’s day was done after five innings of work. In addition to a season-high 10 strikeouts, Eibner gave up two runs-one earned-on seven hits and two walks. Jeremy Heatley pitched 1.2 innings of relief work to pick up the win, while DJ Baxendale worked the final 2.1 to earn his seventh save.
Collin Kuhn led off the seventh inning being plunked by a Stratton pitch for the second time. After a bad throw to second on a fielder’s choice made all runners safe, Wilkins tied the score with an RBI single that plated Kuhn. Eibner, staying in the game as the Hogs’ designated hitter, drew a walk to load the bases for Kreder. The Razorback junior put Arkansas ahead with a two-run single to center, scoring Cox and Wilkins.
The bases were loaded again after Carver reached on a fielder’s choice; Mississippi State tried to erase Eibner at third on the play but he slid in safely under the throw. Sample collected an RBI when he drew a walk out of MSU reliever Kendall Graveman that allowed Eibner to cross the plate. Arkansas scored four in the inning to regain the lead, 5-2.
A home run by Sneed in the bottom of the seventh cut the Razorback lead to two, but Kuhn got that run back with a solo shot to lead off the eighth. The home run was his eighth of the season and extended his hitting streak to 10 games. Arkansas tacked on two more runs in the inning on an RBI single by Eibner and a sacrifice fly by Kreder to take the 8-3 lead.
Nick Vickerson hit his fourth home run of the season, a two-run shot, in the ninth inning off Baxendale to trim the Arkansas lead to three, but the freshman closer got Wes Thigpen to flyout for the final out of the game.
With the series win in hand, the Hogs will go for the sweep in Sunday’s finale which is scheduled for a 1:30 p.m. first pitch at Dudy Noble Field. The Razorbacks will hand the ball to LHP Randall Fant (2-0, 2.08 ERA) for the start in game three.