By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State’s struggles are becoming almost more than John Cohen can bear.
On Sunday afternoon, in front of a sparse crowd of 2,186 at Dudy Noble Field, the Bulldogs suffered yet another blow in what’s becoming another long season. No. 10 Arkansas rolled to a 13-3 win and a series sweep, dropping State to 16-16 overall, 3-9 in the SEC.
Cohen, MSU’s second-year coach, was barely able to contain his emotions after the game.
“I’m embarrassed. Not by our players, I’m embarrassed by where our program is right now,” Cohen said. “There are others who should be embarrassed as well. I’m not going to list them.”
Sunday’s major source of humiliation was being shut down by what Cohen called an “average” freshman pitcher, lanky left-hander Randall Fant (3-0).
He allowed but one run on two hits in seven innings. Fant struck out four, walked two and retired the final 14 batters he faced.
“I thought he’s an average SEC freshman left-hander who really picked up a lot of momentum when we took horrible swings,” Cohen said.
It marked the first time MSU was swept in a three-game home SEC series since Vanderbilt did it in 2008.
Cohen isn’t shocked by his team’s struggles. In fact, he reiterated that “this is exactly where we were at Kentucky.”
It should be noted that Arkansas (26-6, 9-3) was the third SEC team ranked in the top 12 to play MSU this season. The Razorbacks moved into sole possession of first place in the Western Division with the win plus LSU’s loss to Auburn on Sunday.
And it should be noted that Cohen is playing with a short bench and a ton of young arms.
Nevertheless, he said, “I apologize to our fans for having to watch this. Believe me, it’s more difficult for our players and coaches than it is for our fans.”
After slow offensive starts Friday and Saturday, Arkansas wasted little time Sunday.
Zack Cox roped a two-run single to center in the top of the first to open the scoring, and the Razorbacks tagged on another in the third and one in the fourth for a 4-1 lead that proved to be more than enough for Fant.
“We were real aggressive and went after it, and we played like a mature team today, and that was good to see,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said.
Arkansas finished with 20 hits to MSU’s four, and it had at least two hits in each inning but the sixth and eighth. Brett Eibner, a junior who’s expected to be drafted high as a pitcher, iced the game with a grand slam off freshman Ben Bracewell in the seventh inning to make it 10-1.
Five Razorbacks had three hits apiece, and Eibner had five RBIs.
MSU’s Trey Johnson (0-1), a junior college transfer making his first career SEC start, was tagged for four runs on eight hits in 2 2/3 innings.
MSU got two hits from Nick Vickerson and a double from Jet Butler, who started at second base in place of Sam Frost, the normal starter there.
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or firstname.lastname@example.org.