FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – A three run lead in the ninth inning was not enough for the Arkansas baseball team as it fell to a spirited Mississippi State squad, 6-5, at Dudy Noble Field on Friday night.
Arkansas (32-22, 13-15 SEC) falls outside the SEC Tournament picture with the tough loss with one game to play while Mississippi State (23-32, 8-21 SEC) wins just its second SEC series of the season as they prepare to say goodbye to college baseball legend, Ron Polk, on Sunday afternoon.
“I thought we were going to get a big inning and just didn’t get it done,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “We put ourselves in a great spot to win, but couldn’t get it done.”
Holding a three-run lead, Mississippi State showed no signs of giving up in the bottom of the ninth as Ryan Duffy led off with a single. A walk and another single loaded the bases with no outs and put Arkansas in a position to change pitchers. The first batter to face eventual loser Mike Bolsinger hit a rocket to third base that Logan Forsythe was able to keep from going into the outfield but not get an out on keeping the bases loaded. A cue shot to first base by the next batter continued the inning as the Razorbacks failed to get an out on the play. A walk tied the game and two batters later a long drive to right center field scored the game-winning run, capping a four-run inning to win the game.
The Razorbacks wasted a sterling effort by Cliff Springston who threw seven innings and allowed just four hits and two runs. The Arkansas starter threw just 81 pitches.
“Cliff pitched well,” Van Horn said. “He spotted the ball and had a great outing.”
For the second night in a row the Razorbacks were the first team on the scoreboard, this time in the top of the fourth inning. Brett Eibner singled to left field with one out. Arkansas’ next batter Ryan Cisterna was hit by a pitch on the right hand, moving Eibner to second. After a foul out, Tim Smalling delivered an RBI single to left field scoring Eibner and making it a 1-0 game.
Mississippi State tied the game in the fifth inning with just one hit, the Bulldogs first of the game. A leadoff double by Ryan Duffy got things started. He would get sacrificed over to third by the next Mississippi State hitter and a sacrifice fly by Jeff Flagg tied the game at one
The Razorbacks had the makings of a huge inning in the top of the seventh when they loaded the bases with no outs. Strong pitching from Mississippi State limited the damage to just one run on a sacrifice fly making it a 2-1 Arkansas lead. Chase Leavitt opened the inning with a chopper in front of home plate that he beat out to first. Ben Tschepikow followed with a double down the left field line and after going 3-0 to Logan Forsythe the Bulldogs chose to intentionally walk Arkansas’ number three hitter. A strikeout on three pitches was the first out of the inning then Casey Coon scored Leavitt on a sacrifice fly to right field. A foul out ended the threat.
The Bulldogs would again tie the score, this time at two by starting with small ball, then getting the big hit. A leadoff single was followed by a sacrifice bunt, but a one out triple by Nick Hardy made it a 2-2 game. Threatening to score again, Arkansas reliever Stephen Richards would strike out the next two batters to get out of the jam and keep the score tied.
The Razorbacks busted through with a three-run ninth to take a 5-2 lead into the final half inning. A leadoff single by Leavitt and a sacrifice bunt by Tschepikow put a runner on second with one out. The Bulldogs intentionally walked Forsythe for the second time in the game before changing pitchers. Andy Wilkins would draw a walk in a long at bat loading the bases for Casey Coon who it the first pitch he saw into right field, scoring two runners. Brett Eibner would follow with a bloop double to right center scoring a third Razorback run and giving Arkansas a tenuous cushion.
At the plate, Coon drove in three runs on one hit and a sacrifice fly. Forsythe, Eibner and Smalling each had two hits for the Hogs.
The Razorbacks conclude their series with Mississippi State on Saturday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. Saturday’s game is set to air on Fox Sports South and also be broadcast on XM Radio, channel 199. For more information regarding Razorback baseball or University of Arkansas athletics please visit www.hogwired.com.