Wehiwa Aloy, Hudson White fuel Arkansas comeback against Mississippi State

Third-ranked Arkansas rallied for three runs in the eighth inning to win a shaky, back-and-forth series opener against No. 15 Mississippi State, 7-5, Friday night at Baum-Walker Stadium in SEC play.

For a while, it looked like it might be the Bulldogs’ night.

After Arkansas grabbed a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning on a two-run home run by Hudson White, Mississippi State answered with three runs of their own a half-inning later.

In the sixth, Jared Sprague-Lott broke a 3-all tie with a 421-foot home run to left-center, a solo blast that put the Razorbacks ahead, 4-3.

Mississippi State (32-17 overall, 14-11 SEC) answered in the eighth by taking advantage of some free bases against otherwise reliable freshman right-hander Gabe Gaeckle. After a fielding error by Ben McLaughlin at first base, Gaeckle hit Nolan Stevens after getting ahead 0-2 in the count.

Gaeckle then walked three of the next four batters he faced to allow the tying and go-ahead runs to score. The Bulldogs evened the game at 4-4 when Johnny Long drew a bases-loaded walk. A well-hit sacrifice fly to center from Bryce Chance scored Nate Chester to give Mississippi State a 5-4 lead.

After Gaeckle allowed his third walk, Will McEntire entered and struck out Dakota Jordan to leave the bases loaded. The big hit — any hit — never came for State, and Arkansas would take advantage in their half of the eighth.

After singles from Peyton Holt and Jared Sprague-Lott, Wehiwa Aloy tied the game with a single to center that scored Holt. McLaughlin walked to load the bases, which set the stage for White’s second big hit of the night.

He lined a two-run single to right for a 7-5 lead that would be enough to give Arkansas the victory — barely.

More drama awaited in the ninth after Mississippi State loaded the bases with no one out on a walk and two singles off McEntire. Gage Wood entered and retired Chester on a popup to second base for the first out. He then struck out Logan Kohler before getting Long on a popup to first base.

The Bulldogs left the bases loaded for the second straight inning, in addition to having previously stranded two runners on base in the seventh. State left 13 on base for the night and failed to fully capitalize on nine walks issued by Razorbacks pitchers.

McEntire (4-0) earned the win in relief with Wood picking up his second save. Tyson Hardin (3-1) suffered the loss after allowing all three runs in the eighth.

Starters Hagen Smith and Khal Stephen received no-decisions. Stephen pitched seven innings and allowed four runs on six hits. He struck out six without allowing a walk.

Smith surrendered three runs and four hits in five innings of work. He struck out 11 but walked four in a 94-pitch effort (58 strikes).

Arkansas (41-9, 18-7) outhit Mississippi State, 10-7. In addition to White’s two hits and four RBIs, Aloy and Sprague-Lott both went 2-for-4.

The Razorbacks remain one game behind Kentucky in the SEC standings. The Wildcats defeated Florida in 10 innings Friday.

Game 2 of the series is scheduled for 6 p.m. CDT Saturday. The game can be seen on SEC Network+.

Story originally appeared on Razorbacks Wire