FAYETTEVILLE – The No. 9 Arkansas Razorback baseball team split their Southeastern Conference Sunday afternoon doubleheader with Mississippi State at Baum Stadium winning the first game 5-1, then dropping the second 12-4.
Arkansas (19-5, 8-1 SEC) had its program best eight-game winning streak to start the SEC season snapped with the game two loss while Mississippi State (15-12, 3-6 SEC) ended a six-game SEC losing streak with its win at Baum Stadium.
“Give [Mississippi State] credit,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “They came out and got after it. We didn’t get off to a good start [in game two].”
In game one of the twin bill T.J. Forrest threw five innings and allowed just one run on four hits to earn his second win of the season. Forrest struggled early but settled in as he retired seven straight batters between the end of the second and fourth innings and 10 of 11 through the fifth.
The Bulldogs were the first team on the board when they got a couple of hits in the top of the first inning. With runners on first and second with two outs, a single up the middle looked as if it would sustain a Bulldog rally, but a heads up play by Brett Eibner gunned the Mississippi State runner down at third base and allowed just one run to score.
The Razorbacks would match the Bulldogs run and add a second in the bottom of the third when a pair of two-out singles by Travis Sample and Andy Wilkins to left field gave the Hogs a 2-1 lead which they would not look back from.
Another run in the fourth on a solo home run by Brett Eibner was followed by a pair in the fifth on a RBI single by Collin Kuhn and a sacrifice fly by Eibner.
Forrest would run into trouble in the sixth inning as the first two runners reached base on hits up the middle prompting Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn to bring in Mike Bolsinger. Bolsinger got the first batter he faced to ground into a 5-4-3 double play and struck out the next hitter to end the threat. Arkansas’ reliever then retired the Bulldogs 1-2-3 in the seventh to end the game and earn his first save.
Game two of the day started poorly for the Razorbacks as the Bulldogs tallied four on the Razorbacks and used the momentum of the inning to carry them to a 12-4 victory and salvage one game of the three-game set. As good as Arkansas defense was in game one, it struggled in the second game as the Hogs committed three errors.
“We just got off to a bad start.” Van Horn said. “We were able to cut the lead in half to 4-2. It seemed like we couldn’t get their leadoff man [Grant Hogue]. It seemed like he was on base every inning. We were still in the game until the last inning. It was a good job by them and I just told our team, ‘we gave them extra outs, didn’t throw strikes or play good defense, but I’m real proud of them for winning the first eight in a row.’ We just need to shake off this loss, get better and get ready for the next game.”
Wilkins had the Hogs only two-hit game in the second contest as he went 2-4 with a run and RBI thanks to a towering home run to right-center field in the fifth inning to make it a 6-4 game. Chase Leavitt also had a decent performance at the plate in game two with a single in two at-bats with two walks.
For the day, Kuhn and Wilkins each had three hits while Sample, Eibner and Ben Tschepikow each contributed two. Eibner also drove in three runs for the Razorbacks. Sam Murphy, who came in for Arkansas starter Drew Smyly in game two was effective on the mound as he tossed 3 1/3 innings and gave up just one run on five hits and struck out a career-best tying five batters.
The Razorbacks head to the road for their first of four straight games away from Baum Stadium. The Hogs play Missouri State on Tuesday night in Springfield, Mo., to begin the set. For more information regarding Razorback baseball or University of Arkansas athletics please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.