Mississippi State jumps on Arkansas early en route to 8-5 series-evening win


FAYETTEVILLE – The worst Arkansas pitching start in a SEC game in a long time proved to too much for the No. 3 Razorbacks to overcome Saturday night at Baum-Walker Stadium.

No. 14 Mississippi State jumped out to an eight-run lead in the first four innings against Arkansas starter Brady Tygart and reliever Ben Bybee in what turned into an 8-5 win before an announced crowd of 10,963 fans.

“Yeah, obviously we had a really bad start on the mound,” Razorback head coach Dave Van Horn said of Tygart going just 1 1/3 innings. “Ben came in after that, Tygart walks like four or five and you know we’re still in the game. Ben came out walked a few and he got a few outs. I mean it was a little bit of a roller coaster for us.”

Still the Razorbacks (40-10, 18-8), who missed a chance to tie for the SEC overall lead with the loss, got the tying run to the plate with one out in eighth, but couldn’t complete the rally.

They got that chance in part due to scoreless pitching and just one walk from Parker Coil, Cooper Dossett, Stone Hewlett and Jake Faherty from the fifth inning on.

Tygart (4-3) walked five in 1 2/3 innings and Bybee four in 2 1/3 innings while combining to giving up the eight runs in the first four innings.

“Thank goodness Coil (3 1/3 innings) calmed it down a little bit, gave our offense a chance to score a run or two,” Van Horn said. “And we did, and honestly we were just one big swing away from getting within one or two or maybe even catching or passing them. I was happy with the way the guys competed.”

That’s not to say he was happy with the way his team’s offense finished the last part of the eighth and ninth innings.

“I was disappointed that four of the last six outs were called strikes and we didn’t swing the bat,” Van Horn said. “But other than that, I mean the start that we started with and the way our guys competed with, I was happy with that.”

The loss kept Western Division-leading Arkansas from forging a tie atop the SEC overall standings with Kentucky (36-11, 19-7) and No. 1 Tennessee (42-9, 19-7), who holds a tiebreaker advantage over the Wildcats.

The Razorbacks did stay two games ahead of Texas A&M (41-10, 16-7) in the West as the fellow former No. 1 Aggies fell 10-2 at Ole Miss on Saturday and have lost four of their least five league games.

Arkansas and Mississippi State (33-17, 14-11) are scheduled to decide the series winner in Sunday’s 2 p.m. game that will be televised on the SEC Network.

The Razorbacks will be trying to win their 10th straight SEC home series and 22 of its last 23 since 2018.

Arkansas is slated to start Mason Molina (3-2, 3.81), who has struggled with his control with 10 walks in 6 1/2 innings in his last two starts.

“Now it just comes down to a rubber game tomorrow,” van Horn said. “And we’ll see if we can get off to a better start and pitch a little better and we’ll get into the game. Hopefully Molina will give us that, give us some good pitching.

Mississippi State head coach Chris Lemonis was pleased with how his team bounced back from a 7-5 loss to Arkansas on Friday night.

“We played a tough game last night and played tough game today,” Lemonis said. “Every game, on the way out I just tell them we are trying to get wins. And a win here at Arkansas says a lot about our resume.”

Amani Larry, Dakota Jordan and Logan Kohler all hit two-run homers for Mississippi State over the first four innings and that proved to be enough offense to drop Arkansas’ home record to 32-3.

“I can understand why,” noted Lemonis, whose team has won 11 of its last 14 games, of the home dominance. “It is a little crazy here and they are a really good team.

“That’s what happened in those middle innings. You start getting a little bit of momentum. I would like them to get momentum because they got a hit, but I felt like we gave them a little bit defensively in those middle innings there.

“But it is what is and give our guys credit. They hung in there and finished that game out.”

Peyton Holt, who had a fantastic diving catch earlier in the game, delivered a sacrifice fly as Arkansas scored two unearned runs in the fourth.

Peyton Stovall’s two-run homer in the fifth made it 8-4.

Kendall Diggs, who started and batted lead off on Saturday after being limited to a pinch-hitting opportunity on Friday, added a sacrifice fly in the sixth to slice the deficit to 8-5.

Cam Schuelke (3-2) and Brooks Auger came in after Mississippi starting pitcher Jerrangelo Cijntje went the first 4 1/3 innings and gave up four runs on four hits.

“We were a little shaky there in the middle, but I thought Brooks Augur did a great job,” Lemonis said. “There were some really big at bats early in that game. I thought Amani’s swing really got us going and a couple of the homers, man we had some big homers and then I think Brooks settled us down.

Jarrangelo gave us a pretty good start, but I thought Brooks really settled us down and TD was great there at the end.”

Tyler Davis relieved Auger and pitched the night for his third save.

“It was a big decision there,” Lemonis said. “Brooks was so good, but you could see his velocity coming down and when you look what was coming up in the ninth, the splits said to throw a lefty. And we have a lefty as one of our closers. He ran out there and did a great job. I thought he was really good.”

Photo by John D. James

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