STARKVILLE, Miss. – A solo home run in the seventh inning for Mississippi State gave the Bulldogs just enough offense to take down the Arkansas Razorback baseball team on Thursday night, 6-5.
Arkansas (32-21, 13-14 SEC) was hoping to take game one of the series against Mississippi State (22-32, 8-20 SEC) and solidify its position for the Southeastern Conference Tournament but was thwarted by just enough pitching and hitting by the Bulldogs who are hoping to make their head coach Ron Polk’s final series a memorable one. Polk has already announced his retirement as head coach at the conclusion of the season.
The Razorbacks were the first team on the scoreboard as they pushed three across home plate in the top of the second. Casey Coon led off with a single up the middle, but would be erased on an Andy Wilkins fielder’s choice. A six-pitch walk to Jeff Nutt left the stage open to Brett Eibner who clocked a 2-0 pitch over the right-field wall for a three-run home run. The long ball by Eibner is his seventh of the season and first since April 26, when he hit one against Mississippi.
The Bulldogs came back with one of their own in the bottom of the inning when Russ Sneed took the first pitch of thrown by Arkansas starter Justin Wells and deposited it over the center-field wall to make the score 3-1.
Mississippi State wasn’t done scoring as they came to bat in the bottom of the third inning as it put up three runs on four hits to make it a 4-3 game. Getting the first two runners on base allowed the Bulldogs to sacrifice the runners into scoring position and a key double by Tyler Moore made it a tie game. An error on a potential inning ending double play allowed the Bulldogs to score their fourth run. Again with two runners on base, Mississippi State was looking for a huge inning when Jason Nappi hit a shot toward the right field corner. Chase Leavitt, Arkansas’ right fielder got a great jump on the batted ball and would make a highlight reel diving catch on the warning track to end the inning.
The Razorbacks would tie the game at five in the top of the seventh thanks to a pair of wild pitches from the Mississippi State closer Aaron Weatherford. Aaron Murphree opened the inning with a single to center field and was followed by a Leavitt walk. Weatherford was then brought in to replace the Bulldogs starter and against Ben Tschepikow, he threw two wild pitches that scored one run and put the second runner on third base. A sacrifice fly by Tschepikow on the next pitch scored Leavitt and tied the score at five.
The tie game was short lived as Mississippi State took the lead in the bottom of the inning on the power of a second home run to center field. The solo shot made it a 6-5 game heading into the eighth.
A shaky first three innings for Wells gave the Bulldogs four runs, but the workhorse of the Arkansas staff still managed to throw 7.1 innings with 126 pitches. Wells gave up all six runs and was handed his second loss of the season. At the plate Murphree was Arkansas’ only player with multiple hits as the senior had two singles. Forsythe, Coon, Eibner and Jacob House gathered Arkansas’ remaining hits.
The Razorbacks look to take game two of the three-game set on Friday evening with first pitch slated for 6:30 p.m. at Dudy Noble Field. For more information regarding Razorback baseball or University of Arkansas athletics please visit www.hogwired.com.