Hogs Use Big Innings To Take Series From Bulldogs
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The 10th-ranked Arkansas baseball team jumped on 2nd-ranked Mississippi State early and never looked back Friday night, winning 12-5 to claim the series and move into sole possession of second place in the SEC Western Division.
The win is the Razorbacks’ (29-10, 11-6 SEC) fourth in a row and third in conference play as they used a four-run second inning and five-run seventh innings to pull away from the Bulldogs for the seven-run victory. It’s the sixth-straight home series win over Mississippi State dating back to 2007.
Four different Razorback hitters recorded multi-hit games led by catcher Casey Opitz, who went 3-for-5 with three RBIs, all from a bases-clearing single in the seventh that was misplayed by the Bulldogs’ right fielder. Over the last three games, Opitz has had the hot bat going 7-for-12 (.583) at the plate with six RBIs and one home run.
Sophomore infielder Casey Martin turned in another strong line, going 2-for-3 with two runs scored and four RBIs. His big swing came in the second inning when he took Peyton Plumlee deep to centerfield for a grand slam, his first of his career. It was the third grand slam hit by a Razorback this season and the eighth home run of the year by Martin.
Dominic Fletcher and Christian Franklin also had two-hit games. Neither drove in a run in the ballgame, but it’s the second-straight two-hit game for Franklin and fourth-straight multi-hit game for Fletcher.
Wicklander Steadies Pitching Staff In Early Innings
Freshman Patrick Wicklander, making his first career conference start at home, did a good job holding a good Mississippi State offense in check, allowing only two runs on three hits in four innings. He struck out six and walked only three on 81 pitches. He’s thrown three or more innings in his last four outings and has struck out five or more batters six times, including four of his last six appearances.
Kopps Stops Bulldog Momentum In Late Innings
Mississippi State showed some signs of life after scoring two runs off Wicklander in the third and then three off of Kole Ramage in the fifth to cut Arkansas’ lead to 7-5. Head coach Dave Van Horn went to the bullpen at the start of the sixth inning and brought in redshirt junior Kevin Kopps, who was practically untouchable for the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. Kopps gave up just one walk in what was his longest outing of the year and struck out three on 47 pitches. He did hit the first batter he faced, but went on to retire nine of the next 10 batters.
Hogs Use Walks To Advantage
Arkansas drew 16 walks against Mississippi State Friday night, its most walks against an opponent this year and third of 10 or more. The Hogs reached their leadoff batter in the first eight innings of the game, four by walks. The 16 free passes is the most since they set the school record for 19 against Alabama A&M in 2013.
“That’s all we’ve been doing. That’s all we’re doing in practice. It’s pretty obvious what we need to do, and then it’s up to them to do it. Buy in, and Casey’s done a great job. He’s raised his average in the last four or five games because he’s hit the ball through the middle. It’s good to see.” – Head coach Dave Van Horn on Casey Martin’s opposite way approach
“He brought some normalcy to the game. The game was going crazy. For both sides, people weren’t throwing the ball over the plate, walking people, and it’s game two of an SEC series, you’re supposed to have some decent pitching on a Game 2 but everybody’s scattering and pitching behind in the count. Kevin came in, but you think about and he comes in and hits a guy then walks the next batter and you’re thinking, ‘oh baby here we go again.’ Then he got under control. He had the quick second inning and then the third inning, not that bad. He was up to 50 pitches, though, so we got him out. We haven’t taken him above there so we’re just trying to take care of our guys.” – Head coach Dave Van Horn on Kevin Kopps
“My approach was just put the bat on the ball. I’ve been seeing it a lot better lately. So, I was just going up there trying to take a good swing on a pitch and got two knocks out of it.” – Casey Opitz on his bases-clearing single in the seventh inning
“When you get a lot of walks, you tend to get a lot of runs. I know the guys in our lineup top to bottom can hit. It doesn’t matter who you put in there, but when we get walks, that can determine a game. We kept driving them in and driving them in and that just goes to our approach. Guys taking pitches and swinging and attacking inside the zone.” – Casey Martin on the team’s patience at the plate
“That just shows the grit this team has. Even though we really didn’t have the weekend we wanted at Vandy, we came back and we worked on some things and got right back after it. I think that’s what it takes to be good in this league.” – Casey Opitz on bouncing back after the series loss at Vanderbilt
Arkansas and Mississippi State finish the three-game series on Saturday at Baum-Walker Stadium with first pitch set for 2 p.m. The game will be televised on SEC Network+.
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