Mon May 13, 2024

By Lance Hawley

Sports Razorbacks

Hogs Rally to Beat Mississippi State, Take Series

Arkansas Baseball Razorbacks Baseball
Hogs Rally to Beat Mississippi State, Take Series
By Otis Kirk

FAYETTEVILLE -- No. 3 Arkansas fell behind 6-0 on Sunday after three innings, but then took control of the game to defeat No. 14 Mississippi State 9-6 and capture the series at Baum-Walker Stadium.

It was another rough start for the Arkansas starter. Mason Molina only lasted one inning and was removed in the top of the second with no outs after giving up four runs. Gage Wood, Christian Foutch, Will McEntire and Gabe Gaeckle then took control of the game. Wood did give up two runs, but that was all the Bulldogs could get in eight innings against Arkansas' bullpen. Dave Van Horn gave them props following the game.

"Yeah, so what a great job by our bullpen," Van Horn said. "I mean really all weekend when you look at it, they saved us this weekend. And then also the offense doesn’t get a lot of credit, but they did it on Friday. s much credit. And they did it again yesterday, just not quite enough. And then today, honestly, you’re down 6-0. Their dugout’s about as loud as they can be over there, talking a little bit of bull. And we just kept grinding it out and you know we we got a two-run homer here and a two-run homer there. And uh-oh we got another one and we had the lead. And McEntire and Gaeckle finished it up for us."

The Razorbacks had clutch hitting too. They got their nine runs on just eight hits and only left three on base. On the other hand, Mississippi State had 13 hits and stranded 12 runners.

"Probably the best team win of the year for us just because we were down, game three," Van Horn said. "It was just fun. The last few innings were really fun for us."

While Arkansas' bullpen was at peak form, Mississippi State's not so much. Mississippi State's pitchers hit the leadoff hitter in the fourth and then walked the first first hitter in both the fifth and sixth innings. All three scored.

Even though Arkansas lost 8-5 Saturday night they scored the last five runs in that game. Van Horn was asked if that comeback helped them today?

"I feel like it did," Van Horn said. "You know, I told Wood when I gave him the ball, I said, ‘Just keep it close, man. We’ve got time. When Christian came in, we’re thinking if he could get through an inning here, we get the next guy. Then you chip one away, you hit a ground ball to second after a double, no outs, you get him in on a chopper. We just punched one in just to change it up, a little momentum. And we just kind of got lucky here and there. The center fielder didn’t catch that ball and he ran a long way for that ball. The wind’s playing with it. But we ended up scoring that run I think. It added up."

Wood did just that working three innings, allowing four hits, two runs, walking one and striking out three. Van Horn also pointed out a clutch by a player who hasn't played that much in SEC games this season.

"It really was just some clutch hitting," Van Horn said. "It started with (Jayson) Jones going down and hitting that low pitch and driving it out of the park. The wind didn’t help that one. It didn’t help any of them. They were gonna go. But you know, just some big swings. Three big swings, six runs. A sacrifice fly by (Ben) McLaughlin, that was big because they brought their last guy in. You know he’s a guy that’s really hard to hit and they were hoping they’d get weak contact there and get out of that without a run being scored. McLaughlin didn’t waste any time. He just stayed through that pitch and hit it pretty good. It was a great win for our team. I do believe that we got confidence from Friday and Saturday that we could still come back and win if our bullpen would just give us a little bit of a chance and they gave us a great chance."

The comeback started in the bottom of the fourth. Jared Sprague-Lott was hit by a pitch to start the inning. With one out McLaughlin then singled. A wild pitch allowed Sprague-Lott and McLaughlin to advance a base. Ryder Helfrick grounded out to shortstop, but Sprague-Lott scored from third base to pull within 6-1.

In the fifth, Kendall Diggs started it with a walk. The next hitter Jones drove the ball over the fence in left field to pull Arkansas within 6-3. Peyton Holt then doubled. A ground out by Peyton Stovall moved Holt to third with one out. Sprague-Lott then plated Holt with a ground out to third. That pulled Arkansas within 6-4.

In the sixth inning, McLaughlin led off with a walk. With one out, Hudson White hit a shot over the fence in left to tie the game at 6. With two outs then Jones walked. Holt followed with a blast over the fence in left field putting Arkansas up 8-6.

The final run came in the bottom of the seventh. Sprague-Lott doubled to get the inning started. Wehiwa Aloy then grounded out, but Sprague-Lott advanced to third on the play. ,McLaughlin then lifted a sacrifice fly to center field that plated Sprague-Lott.

McEntire (5-0) got the win. He worked two innings allowing one hit, no runs, walked three and struck out three. Gabe Gaeckle got his seventh save of the season. Arkansas (42-10, 19-8) will finish up the regular season at Texas A&M beginning Thursday. Mississippi State (33-18, 15-12) reliever Cam Schuelke (2-3) took the loss. Van Horn praised Gaeckle and McEntire.

"I mean, (Gaeckle’s) coming off a day’s rest where he threw like 40 pitches or whatever," Van Horn said. "He didn’t have his best command, but I thought his stuff was better. He’s harder to hit. He ended up walking a few people, but he didn't give up that big hit, which was huge. We intentionally walked the lefty to get to the next guy, and he struck him out. That was probably the at-bat of the game right there for us."

An odd play happened to Mississippi State in the top of the seventh inning. Aaron Downs walked with one out. The next hitter flied out to left. With two outs, Downs tried to steal second, but the hitter had drawn ball four. Downs unaware the hitter walked slid into second base. He overslid the base and Stovall put the tag on him. Even though the batter walked the runner isn't allowed to be off second once he touches it. The umps got together and correctly called Downs out to end the inning. Van Horn was asked had he ever seen that play before?

"No (I think)," Van Horn said. "So Stovall didn’t know it was [ball four], obviously. He tagged him the first time and the umpire I don’t think made a call because he knew that he had just [walked]. And Stovall followed him and he went off. You saw it. He tagged him. I’m not sure, but I think the other umpire made the call and said ‘Yeah, he was out’ because he came way off. So Stovall tells me. But no, I’ve never seen that. I mean that was … they would have had runners at first and second with two down and you never know what’s going to happen."

Thursday's game at Texas A&M will begin at 7 p.m. on ESPN2. Friday's game at 7 p.m. will be on the SEC Network. Saturday's game starts at 2 p.m. and also on the SEC Network. 

Photos Courtesy of Craven Whitlow CW3 Sports Action