Sometimes a big inning is all it takes. Arkansas found that out Saturday.
The Diamond Hogs beat Mississippi State to keep their perfect start in SEC play going with a 5-4 win at Baum Stadium on Saturday night. Arkansas scored all five runs in the second inning and Trevor Stephan kept Bulldogs hitters mostly at bay in the Razorbacks win.
Arkansas (16-4, 2-0) has now won its first SEC series since April 23 of last year when it won two of three against Kentucky. Another win Sunday would give the Razorbacks their first SEC sweep since March 27 last year against Auburn.
Carson Shaddy and Chad Spanberger did a bulk of the damage on Saturday. Shaddy hit a two-run home run to left to start Arkansas’ scoring and Spanberger one-upped him with a three-run shot to right shortly thereafter. Arkansas picked up five runs on five hits and two walks in the inning, chasing Mississippi State starter Peyton Plumlee after 1 2/3 innings.
Stephan gave up a pair to Mississippi State (12-8, 0-2) in the third after the Bulldogs started the game’s scoring in the second. Brett Rooker had an RBI single and a Shaddy throwing error allowed another MSU run to pull the visitors within two.
Arkansas’ starting pitcher settled after that. He ultimately went 6 1/3 innings, allowing four runs (two earned) on seven hits and a walk. Stephan also struck out eight batters, giving him 40 on the season, most on the team. Those 40 have come in just 30 innings pitched.
Cannon Chadwick handled the final eight outs as Mississippi State put two on against Stephan in the seventh. he was pulled for Barrett Loseke, who walked the only batter he saw to load the bases. Chadwick gave up a run on a foul out, but otherwise finished the game unharmed.
Grading the Hogs
It wasn’t bad, but all the damage was done in the one inning. Arkansas was pretty limited offensively except for that. A nice sign was every starter but one reaching base safely, though.
Razorbacks pitchers had a 1.00 WHIP in an SEC game. That’s always a solid outing. Toss in another 13 strikeouts and pitching coach Wes Johnson’s difference with the staff has been clear.
The Big Stick + Arm
A night after Blaine Knight showed himself the team’s ace, Stephan was nearly as good. Arkansas pitching, which was the team’s biggest bugaboo last year, has been stellar through two SEC games so far.
Shaddy is the best 6-hole hitter in the SEC. After a 2 for 3 night with a walk and the home run, Arkansas’ usual second baseman is hitting a cool .339 on the season with four home runs and 18 RBIs
What’s next for Arkansas?
The Diamond Hogs and Bulldogs finish their three-game set on Sunday at 1 p.m.