Arkansas entered the weekend in great shape to claim the regular-season SEC West baseball title. That is no longer the case after being swept by Mississippi State in a series that concluded Saturday in Starkville with a 7-5 Bulldogs victory.
The good news for Arkansas is it will exit the weekend at least tied for the division lead. The Hogs could be deadlocked with LSU, Ole Miss and/or Texas A&M depending on the outcome of games. But things are far from comfortable now with series against LSU, Texas A&M and a resurgent Georgia still to be played.
Before facing those teams, Arkansas (28-13, 10-8 SEC) must shift its SEC focus toward claiming a series win over Alabama next weekend. The Crimson Tide (22-18, 5-11) will enter the series in last place in the SEC West, a spot Mississippi State (22-19, 8-10) held until sweeping the Hogs.
For Arkansas’ sake, at least it will face Alabama at home. The Razorbacks have won all six of their weekend series played at Baum Stadium this season, including three in the SEC. Away from Fayetteville, it’s a different story. The Hogs have lost all three of their SEC series played away from home and have a 2-7 record in those games.
Grading the Hogs
Arkansas starter Isaiah Campbell was given a 3-0 lead before taking the mound in the bottom of the first inning. He did enough to hold that lead until the sixth, when he surrendered 3 hits and a walk to help Mississippi State put up a 4-run inning and claim its first lead of the game.
As mentioned, the Razorbacks started hot with 3 first-inning hits — 2 for extra bases — for an early 3-run lead. But that was not indicative of how the offense would perform the rest of the game. Arkansas had plenty of base runners but failed to come up with enough clutch hits. The Hogs left 8 runners on base in the defeat.
The Big Stick + The Arm
Campbell took the loss after he was unable to work out of trouble in the sixth. He wasn’t great by any stretch, but he gave the Hogs 5 solid innings. That’s typically as much as can be asked from a Game 3 weekend starter.
Stick: Jared Gates
Gates’ 2-RBI double in the first inning was a clutch hit with a pair of runners in scoring position. He added a single in the sixth and came around to score.
Arkansas returns home to Baum Stadium for games against Texas Tech on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Red Raiders (32-8, 10-4 Big 12) are No. 5 in the most recent D1Baseball.com poll. Arkansas is No. 3, though certainly won’t remain that high with it faces Texas Tech after being swept over the weekend. It’s still a significant two-game set for two teams vying to be among the all-important top 8 national seeds in the NCAA Tournament.