BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
An injury-riddled Arkansas pitching staff used a pretty good 3-2-1 formula Friday night to emerge victorious Friday night in Starkville, Miss.
Use 3 pitchers, give up 2 hits and win 1 game.
That’s just what the No. 6 Razorbacks (34-12, 15-7) did on Friday while downing struggling Mississippi State 6-2 at Dudy Noble Stadium.
Hagen Smith (7-1) got the win while going 5 innings, fanning 8, allowing two runs on two hits and walked five in his return to being his team’s No. 1 starer after filing in as a multi-inning reliever.
Cody Adcock then hurled a clean sixth inning and freshman closer Gage Wood worked the last three innings against Mississippi State (24-21, 6-15) for his fifth save.
That trio fanned 13 Bulldogs and Jace Bohrofen and Brady Slavens both homered in a win that was Arkansas’ first on the road in a month – which covered 5 games.
“I didn’t even realize that,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “ Yeah, it feels great. It feels good to win Friday and even better when you bring it up that we haven’t won on the road in that long.
“Maybe we’ve been at home a lot, but yeah. We lost to Georgia, so it’s been a while. We played good tonight. I challenged them a little bit yesterday that we’ve got to play better on the road and don’t worry about getting beat, just play, and they did.”
Slavens was happy to get the opening game win.
It’s never easy to win away from home,” Slavens said. “I don’t know, but we’re trying to switch that up the last few road series, and we’re off to a good start. I got nothing there.”
Wood noted that pitching coach Matt Hobbs also reminded the team of how it had been subpar away from home.
“I think tonight really came down to the fact that, if you look at some of the road stats on the season other than tonight, like last week getting ready for this weekend, it honestly wasn’t very good compared to what we have done at home,” Wood said. “ Coach Hobbs pointed that out to us, and I think everyone came out with a chip on our shoulder, and we were going to prove that we were better than what we had been showing. We did that tonight.”
Kendall Diggs walked to open the game an Bohrofen followed with with his 12th home run for a 2-0 lead.
Slavens added a two-run homer in the sixth and Caleb Cali had three of Arkansas’ seven hits while raising his SEC batting average to .390.
Colton Ledbetter had both of Mississippi State’s hits with both coming against Smith in the third and fifth innings.
Smith’s outing had some positives and negatives per Van Horn.
“Well tonight it was that he walked people,” Van Horn. “And I think just in the first inning he was amped up. He came off the field and he was in the dugout and I was like, ‘Wow, we’ve got to calm him down a little bit.’ His body … his adrenaline. He looked like a caged lion to be honest with you. He was just so pumped up or I don’t know. So just … we’ll get that right
“But he gave us five innings and we were hoping for six and hopefully seven. I almost feel like if he’d have saved a little energy early in the game he could’ve got there.
“But obviously the two pitchers that we brought in did a tremendous job because Mississippi State can hit.
“They’ve got good hitters and they’re big and they’ve hit 78 home runs going into tonight, which is 10 more than we had. It’s just a tough lineup and our pitchers did a tremendous job.”
Arkansas won the game without its top three batters in its normal line up with leadoff hitter Tavian Josenberger, Peyton Stovall and Jared Wegner out out with injuries.
Josenberer is actually on the 27-man travel roster for Arkansas this weekend.
“Yeah, he’s getting there,” Van Horn said. “ I put him on there because I didn’t know who to put on there for a 27th guy, just because of the injuries.
“… Stovall, I don’t want him to throw a ball at all this weekend. Tavian, I mean, he’s a guy that if we really needed him to go in there lay down a bunt or who knows, maybe even go up there and get a pinch hit if he would just kind of jog to first base. He’s probably 80 percent now but we don’t want to hurt him. That’s where he is right now.”
Van Horned noted that Brady Tygart will likely be the Arkansas starting pitch in Saturday’s 6 p.m. game and Hunter Hollan in Sunday’s 1 p.m. contest.
Mississippi State head coach Chris Lemonis’s team won the 2021 national championship.
But the program has fallen on hard times and Lemonis who fired pitching coach Scott Foxhall earlier this week.
Lemonis was impressed with Smith’s early work on the mound.
“I thought their starter came out as good as anyone we’ve seen all year for the first three innings,” Lemonis said. “Then, I thought we did a good job wearing him out, getting some walks, some HBPs. And then we got him tired, we had opportunities to drive some runs in we just need to put the ball in play.
“I think we struck out like 13 times, which is very uncharacteristic of our offense. We had chances to grab momentum and we don’t grab it.”
Lemonis addressed his firing of Foxhall.
“We had a (team) meeting on Monday and talked,” Lemonis said. “I think when I called it, I think most of them knew what the meeting was. It’s unfortunate.
“Fox is a life-long friend. We played rival schools. It was just the time and the moment. He’s an unbelievable pitching coach. We won a national championship together. We’ve had a really tough two years on the mound. Just trying to spark these guys to the finish.”
Photo courtesy of University of Arkansas