Arkansas beats Mississippi State for spot in semifinals
HOOVER, Ala. -- No. 4 seed Arkansas powered past No. 5 seed Mississippi State 9-2 to stay alive in the SEC Tournament. All nine Arkansas starters reached base at least once and the Razorbacks used a six-run sixth inning to clinch the victory.
"We're patient and we've got some pop," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said about the Razorbacks' big sixth inning. "It was good separation, because, you know, you get into a tournament like this late, you start to run a little bit low on pitching, and trying to save some guys, for if you win, for the next game."
Arkansas first baseman Chad Spanberger followed up Thursday's record-setting performance with the first hit of the game, a first-inning double. A Luke Bonfield single brought Spanberger home and put the Razorbacks on the board.
The Bulldogs responded quickly, tying the game in the top of the next inning. Hunter Stovall and Cody Brown both hit singles and a fielder's choice allowed Stovall to score on an error.
The score remained tied at 1-1 until Arkansas freshman Dominic Fletcher hit a solo home run to open the sixth. It was the Razorbacks' 75th home run of the season, tied for the most by an SEC team since BBCOR bats were adopted in 2011.
When MSU starter Jacob Billingsley walked a batter following the Fletcher home run, Trey Jolly enterted from the bullpen. Jax Biggers responded at the plate by making SEC Tournament history and becoming the first player to hit three triples in the same tournament. Biggers' triple drove in Carson Shaddy to make it 3-1. Grant Koch added another run with a double to deep right.
Parker Ford relieved Jolly but was unable to stop the Arkansas surge. The Razorbacks finished the frame with a 7-1 advantage.
MSU's Brown led off the seventh with a solo home run and Trysten Barlow took over on the bump for Mississippi State in the bottom of the frame. SEC Player of the Year Brent Rooker moved from first base to the mound in the bottom of the eighth. A double by Biggers drove in two more runs to extend the Arkansas lead.
The Bulldogs mounted a late comeback against the Razorbacks in the teams' Thursday second-round matchup, but were unable to replicate the rally on Friday.
Arkansas RHP Blaine Knight moved to 8-4 on the season after striking out nine across 6.2 innings, giving up two runs on five hits.
UP NEXT: Arkansas faces top-seeded Florida in Saturday's second semifinal game on SEC Network. The first semifinal between LSU and South Carolina is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. ET on SEC Network. Mississippi State fell to 36-24 on the season and was eliminated from the SEC Tournament.