STARKVILLE, Miss. – James Mahler pitched three innings of relief and stopped Mississippi State from scoring runs to help the Arkansas baseball team to a 15-10 win on Saturday afternoon at Dudy Noble Field, spoiling legendary Bulldog coach Ron Polk’s final game as manager.
Arkansas (33-22, 14-15 SEC) completes its Southeastern Conference schedule ½ game out of the SEC Tournament picture based on wins and losses from Saturday’s games. Mississippi State (23-33, 9-21 SEC) concludes its season.
Mahler’s performance came just in time as Arkansas struggled to get any Mississippi State batters out in the fifth and sixth innings. The Bulldogs scored six runs to take a 10-9 lead at that point before Mahler entered and struck two batters out to get out of the sixth. He would pitch the final three innings and end with a career best 3.2 innings out of the bullpen and career best eight strikeouts. He walked two and gave up just one hit.
“You have to give credit to the guys,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “They hung in there today. They could have rolled over, but kept fighting and that’s all I can ask.”
The Razorbacks exploded out of the gates with nine runs in the first two innings. Arkansas sent 17 batters to the plate and notched their nine runs on just six hits, but capitalized on two Mississippi State errors.
The top of the first saw Chase Leavitt reach on the first error and move to second when the ball skipped into the dugout. After moving to third on a passed ball, Leavitt scored on a Logan Forsythe sacrifice fly to left. Casey Coon walked and scored from first on a RBI double off the wall in left center by Tim Smalling. Smalling scored on another passed ball and the scoring concluded on a Brett Eibner home run, his eighth of the season.
Mississippi State scored a pair in the bottom of the first on a home run of its own, but the Razorbacks came back with five in the top of the second to take a commanding lead. The Razorbacks scored all five second inning runs on just three hits with a hit batter and walk aiding the cause. Forsythe and Jeff Nutt had the big hits with Forsythe getting a RBI single and Nutt driving in two with a ground ball to right field.
Switching pitchers liberally through three innings, the Bulldogs began to get Arkansas out on a regular basis staring with the third and chipped away at the Razorback advantage with a pair of runs in both the third and fifth innings to make it a three-run ballgame.
The Bulldogs rallied in the bottom of the sixth inning to take the lead on poor pitching and fielding by the Razorbacks. A hit batter and two walks loaded the bases with no outs. Eibner was brought on to pitch and struck out the first batter he faced and induced a ground ball to second on the second batter, but a throwing error allowed the inning to continue. Another throwing error on the next play kept the bases loaded with two runs in and another hit batter and walk prolonged the disastrous inning. James Mahler came in to strike out two batters ending the inning which gave Mississippi State the lead with four runs on no hits and two Arkansas errors.
The Razorbacks tied the game in the seventh with a run on a throwing error by the bulldogs. Aaron Murphree reached on a fielder’s choice and moved all the way to third on a bloop single by Ben Tschepikow. Tschepikow broke for second on a straight steal and the throw to get him sailed into the outfield allowing Murphree to score from third. As Mississippi State raced to the ball, Tschepikow would round third and head to the plate where he would get thrown out by the right fielder.
Strange plays in the eighth would give Arkansas its second lead of the game as the Razorbacks scored three runs to make it a 13-10 game. Leavitt would walk to open the inning and steal second base. Forsythe would then single up the middle scoring Leavitt but the throw to the plate would be cut off and sent back to second to try and get Forsythe stretching the play. The throw sailed into the outfield for an error and Forsythe would come all the way around to score on the play. Arkansas manufactured the third run when Casey Coon singled, stole second and third base, then scored on a passed ball.
The Razorbacks tacked on two more runs for good measure in the ninth.
The Razorbacks play their final regular season game on Monday night when they host Western Illinois at Baum Stadium beginning at 6:35 p.m. For more information regarding Razorback baseball or University of Arkansas athletics please visit www.hogwired.com.