On Saturday, the game started the opposite of Friday night’s with No. 2 Mississippi State jumping out to a 3-0 lead, but then No. 1 Arkansas took command of the game for a 11-5 win at Dudy Noble Field in Starkville.
The game included a one hour, 15-minute weather delay. The Hogs got great relief pitching from Caden Monke and Kevin Kopps plus home runs from Christian Franklin, Braydon Webb, Cullen Smith and Matt Goodheart. Monke (3-0) gets the win, Kopps the save and Brandon Smith (3-1) takes the loss.
Arkansas didn’t get on the scoreboard until Jalen Battles singled to center field to start the top of the third. That was Arkansas’ first hit of the game. After the next two Razorbacks struck out, Goodheart hit a fly ball to center field that was dropped and Battles raced around to score all the way from first base.
Mississippi State took a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the third when Kamren James hit a shot over the fence in left field off of Zebulon Vermillion. In the first inning, the Bulldogs scord three runs on two singles and a pair of doubles.
The Hogs threatened in the top of the fourth when Brady Slavens led off the inning with a single up the middle. Following a strikeout, Casey Opitz walked giving Arkansas runners on first and second with one out. But a strikeout and fly out ended the threat.
Vermillion, who had pitched eight innings each of last two outings, gave the Hogs 3.1 innings on Saturday. He allowed seven hits, four runs (all earned), one walk, hit a batter, three strikeouts, threw 50 pitches and 31 were strikes. Caleb Bolden entered with runners on first and second and one out and promptly got the Bulldogs to hit into a double play.
In the top of the fifth, the Hogs took a 5-4 lead on two home runs. Webb hit a solo home run to left field with one out to pull the Razorbacks within 4-2. After a ground out for the second of the inning, Wallace singled. Then Slavens hit a double to left field on a ball the third baseman, shortstop and left fielder all kind of looked at each other. Franklin made them pay with a three-run shot over the fence in left field. It was hit third home of the series.
Mississippi State tied the game at 5 in the bottom of the fifth when Tanner Allen hit a solot shot over the fence in left field off Bolden. Monke came into pitch in the bottom of the fifth with one out. Bolden leaves after pitching one inning, allowing one hit the home run to Allen.
In the top of the sixth, Cullen starts the inning off with a solo shot over the fence in left field putting the Hogs up 6-5. After Webb walked, Goodheart gave it a ride over the fence in center field for an 8-5 advantage.
Monke left after pitching to two hitters, striking out both. Kopps replaced him to start the bottom of the sixth. Kopps struck out the side in his first inning of work. Kopps worked 4.0 innings, allowed two hits, walked one, struck out seven, threw 56 pitches with 41 strikes.
Arkansas had a big inning going in the top of the seventh before the rain delay. Slavens singled to start the inning. Franklin then doubled. Opitz walked to load the bases. Smith then hit a sacrifice fly after the 74-minute rain delay to plate Slavens. Battles then hit into a fielder’s choice that allowed Franklin to score for a 10-5 lead.
The Razorbacks added a run in the top of the ninth when Smith crossed the plate following a walk. Robert Moore singled then got out trying to go to second, but stayed in the rundown long enough for Smith to score. The Hogs got 11 runs on 13 hits and left eight on base.
The final game of the series will be Sunday at 2 p.m. and televised on the SEC Network. Arkansas (18-3, 4-1) will send lefty Lael Lockhart (1-1, 2.38 ERA) against Mississippi State’s right-handed pitcher Jackson Fristoe (2-1, 1.71 ERA). Mississippi State (17-6, 2-3) will try to avoid being swept at home.