#1 Arkansas (baseball) 8, Mississippi State 2
In the most anticipated college baseball matchup of the young season, Arkansas lived up to the hype and then some.
The Razorbacks burst out of the gate with three solo shots in the top of the first inning, sucking the energy out of a packed Dudy Noble Field from the get-go in a convincing 8-2 win against Mississippi State on Friday night. Matt Goodheart and Cayden Wallace went back-to-back before Christian Franklin launched his first of two homers on the evening as the Hogs scored three runs in the first and never looked back.
Arkansas, Baseball America’s No. 1 team in the country, improves to 17-3 overall and 3-1 in SEC play on the year with the win against the No. 2 Bulldogs. Friday night’s victory is the Razorbacks’ first in Starkville since March 29, 2014.
Patrick Wicklander earned the start and was brilliant in his five innings of work. The lefty kept Mississippi State off balance, allowing only one run on two hits and four walks while striking out three.
The San Jose, Calif., native carried a no-hitter through the first 4.1 innings before giving up a single. His dominance on the mound coupled with the Razorback offense was more than enough.
Ahead 3-0 in the top of the fourth, Arkansas added two more runs to extend its lead to five. Franklin’s second solo shot of the ballgame, which was crushed over the wall in left field, led off the inning before Robert Moore’s sacrifice fly drove in one.
The Bulldogs closed their deficit to four in the bottom half of the fifth, but the Hogs had more runs left in the tank. A two-run seventh inning was powered by Goodheart and Brady Slavens, who both singled in base runners to extended Arkansas’ lead to six.
By then, Wicklander’s night was done. Peyton Pallette entered in the top of the sixth and retired the first eight he faced while striking out one along the way.
After Slavens’ second RBI single of the night in the top of the ninth grew the Hogs’ lead to seven, Pallette came back out for the bottom half of the inning and closed out the game.
The righty locked down Arkansas’ 8-2 win and earned his second career save in the process, striking out two in four innings while allowing a run on two hits and a walk.
The Razorbacks look to clinch their second SEC series win tomorrow afternoon. First pitch in game two against Mississippi State is set for 2 p.m. on SEC Network+.
#15 Arkansas (softball) 2, Mississippi State 0
Infielder Linnie Malkin’s two-run home run that landed in the Bogle Park left field parking lot was the only swing Arkansas needed in a 2-0 win over Mississippi State on Friday night. The Razorbacks (26-3, 7-0 SEC) continued their best start to league play in program history and remain the SEC’s only undefeated team in conference play this season.
Courtney Deifel tallied her 200th career win, improving to 200-136 in her seven seasons as a head coach.
How it Happened
Arkansas’ Mary Haff and Mississippi State’s (15-12, 0-7 SEC) Annie Willis both got off to good starts inside the circle. Each pitcher held their opposition to just two baserunners each over the first three innings.
Outfielder Hannah McEwen gave the Razorbacks a much-needed baserunner, drawing a leadoff walk to begin the bottom of the fourth. With two outs, Malkin socked her 11th homer of the season and the first Arkansas hit of the day, giving the team a 2-0 lead.
Mississippi State tried to start a rally in both the fifth and sixth innings by putting two runners on in each frame, but could not score, leaving all four on base. Reliever Autumn Storms came out of the bullpen to record the sixth inning’s final out and worked a clean seventh, closing the game.
Outfielder Sam Torres registered Arkansas’ only other hit of the day on an infield single to short in the sixth.
Haff (16-2) built on her nation-leading win total by tossing 5.2 innings and allowing four hits and one walk with four strikeouts. Storms (2) registered her second save in as many games and struck out two in 1.1 frames. The pitching staff notched their fifth shutout of the year and first since an 8-0 win over Texas Tech on Feb. 28.
Annie Willis (7-3) went the distance for the Bulldogs, surrendering two hits, three walks and two earned runs. She fanned a season-high 12.
Mississippi State outhit Arkansas, 4-2, holding the Razorbacks to a season-low total. Torres, McEwen and infielder Braxton Burnside each drew a walk, and infielder Keely Huffine was hit by a pitch, to account for the only other Razorback baserunners. The Razorbacks won a game when held to two or fewer hits for the first time since defeating Georgia Tech, 2-0, on Feb. 8, 2015.
Arkansas and Mississippi State play the middle game of the series at 1 p.m. tomorrow, March 27, on SEC Network+.