STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Mississippi State will enter the final day of the college baseball regular season playing for a championship.
No. 4 MSU moved into a two-way tie for first place in the Southeastern Conference overall standings with a 5-1 win over Arkansas Friday night at Dudy Noble Field.
With the win, MSU improved to 39-14-1 overall and 20-9 in league play. Arkansas fell to 26-28 and 7-22. The Bulldogs have won 10 straight games, while the Razorbacks have lost 12 straight games. Coupled with Thursday night's 7-0 Bulldog victory, MSU clinched its ninth conference series win in 10 weekends of play.
Entering the final day of the regular season, MSU and Texas A&M are both 20-9 in league play, which makes them tied for the Western Division lead and the overall lead in the conference standings. MSU last won the SEC regular-season championship in 1989 and has not won a Western Division championship under the present-day format.
The 20 league wins match the 1989 squad for most conference wins in a season.
"Really proud of the kids," MSU head coach John Cohen said. "This was one of those games where you just try to hang in there. If we don't throw the ball away on a high chopper, they don't score. Austin was able to throw a bunch of changeups early in the count and then put them away with the fastball.
"Sometimes, you leave runs out there. Situationally, we would like to have done some more stuff. However, we did enough on the mound. Tomorrow, we have a chance to do something special."
The Bulldogs again rode stellar pitching to put away the Razorbacks. Dakota Hudson threw a five-hit shutout in Thursday night's win. Friday, Austin Sexton and Reid Humphreys combined to hold the Razorbacks to five hits and no earned runs.
Sexton (7-2) allowed four hits and one run over seven innings of work, with seven strikeouts and two walks. Humphreys struck out three and worked around one hit in two innings of work for his seventh save.
Ironically, MSU managed only two earned runs, as Arkansas committed two critical errors, on the heels of making five in the series opener.
The Bulldogs erased an early 1-0 deficit with three scores in the third inning. John Holland reached as a hit batsman, Jake Mangum singled and Jack Kruger walked to load the bases. Nathaniel Lowe hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game. A throwing error then allowed the other two runs to come home.
In the eighth inning, the Bulldogs again loaded the bases on consecutive singles by Lowe, Gavin Collins and Jacob Robson. After back-to-back strikeouts, Ryan Gridley had an RBI-single, while another run scored when the ball was thrown away on the infield.
MSU finished with eight hits, which snapped a string of six straight games with 10 or more hits. Gridley had three hits, while Lowe had two hits.
Grant Koch had two of Arkansas' five hits. Isaiah Campbell (3-1) took the loss.
MSU and Arkansas close the regular season with a 5 p.m. start Saturday. The game will be televised nationally on the SEC Network.