By Rick Harvey/Special to the Daily Journal
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – A bad first inning proved to be too much for Mississippi State to overcome on Sunday.
No. 15 Arkansas scored three early runs off junior right-hander Ben Bracewell, who was making his first start of the season and first career SEC start, and that was enough as the Razorbacks beat the 25th-ranked Bulldogs 3-1 at Baum Stadium to win the three-game series.
Bracewell started in place of Jacob Lindgren, who had to miss his spot in the rotation with a sore arm. The Razorbacks (21-8, 6-3 SEC) greeted Bracewell (0-1) with single, a double and two walks to start the game. He was relieved by Ross Mitchell without recording an out as Arkansas quickly led 3-0.
“Lindgren is our guy, and he didn’t pitch this weekend and that really hurts our staff because he’s someone we can count on,” Bulldogs Coach John Cohen said. “We do a really good job of shoving the ball in the strike zone, but it just hasn’t happened in the first inning as much as we want it to.”
Arkansas, meanwhile, got an effective outing from senior left-hander Randall Fant (2-0), who allowed one run on a fourth-inning home run from Wes Rea and scattered four hits over six innings, striking out six and walking two.
“It just was not a good offensive performance,” Cohen said. “Fant was very effective. We didn’t command the strike zone like we wanted to. You can’t score one run in nine innings and expect to win.”
Bullpen stands tall
Mississippi State (23-8, 3-6) did get an impressive showing out of its bullpen. Sophomore left-hander Ross Mitchell came in with the bases loaded in the first, got out of the inning thanks to a double play and strikeout, and didn’t allow a run in 61⁄3 innings.
It was Mitchell’s longest appearance of his career and the longest relief outing of the season by a Mississippi State reliever.
“I was able to limit the damage to a minimum and get out of that [inning] as quickly as possible,” Mitchell said. “It was a tough situation. I was just wanting to keep the team in the game and let my defense work.”
Rea went 2 for 4 to lead the Bulldogs offensively. Hunter Renfroe was 0 for 4, ending his 15-game hitting streak.
“Our bullpen did a phenomenal job,” Cohen said. “We just have to get off to a better start.”
MSU returns to action at South Alabama – ranked No. 24 last week – on Tuesday, before opening a three-game SEC series with Florida at home on Friday.