Mississippi State Baseball misses golden opportunity at series win over Arkansas

Mississippi State baseball was in prime position to pick-up a massive series win in Fayetteville, but the Bulldogs' mistakes let the series slip away.
Mississippi State head coach Chris Lemonis watches from the dugout against Ole Miss at Swayze Field
Mississippi State head coach Chris Lemonis watches from the dugout against Ole Miss at Swayze Field / Bruce Newman/Special to the Clarion

Mississippi State baseball went to Fayetteville needing at least one win to keep themselves in the realistic hosting discussion. The Diamond Dawgs accomplished that minimal goal with a win over the Razorbacks on Saturday.

And considering they were competitive with the 5th-ranked Hogs in a tough road environment the entire weekend, you'd think most would come away optimistic with State as the postseason approaches. That's not the case, however, given the manner in which the Bulldogs lost on Friday and Sunday to lose the series.

Mississippi State, now 33-18 on the season and 15-12 within the SEC, had prime opportunities at wins on both Friday and Sunday. They should have won at least one of those games if not both. Even that Saturday game which State won got quite a bit more testy than it should have. State built out an 8-0 lead through 3.5 innings but then allowed five-straight runs by the Hogs. Fortunately, MSU held off the comeback and prevailed 8-5.

They weren't as fortunate in games one and three of the series.

Friday proved to be a true back-and-forth battle with ace pitchers Hagen Smith and Khal Stephen battling. Arkansas struck first with three runs in the 4th, but State responded in the 5th when Hunter Hines hit a bases-clearing double with the bases loaded to tie things up.

A solo HR in the 6th put the Hogs back ahead. A bevy of mistakes in the top of the 8th allowed MSU to load the bases and then score the tying run with a walk. A Bryce Chance sacrifice fly put State ahead 5-4.

Unfortunately, the bottom of the 8th was a disaster for State. Reliever Tyson Hardin surrendered four hits and a walk, allowing Arkansas to plate three runs and move ahead 7-5. State actually managed to load the bases with no outs in the top of the 9th, but incredibly, they failed to score and took the loss.

It's hard to call Sunday's performance anything other than a choke-job. State, led by freshman and Starkville-native Ethan Pulliam, exploded for five runs in the second and tacked-on another in the third to go ahead 6-0.

But then things imploded. After Pico Khon gave State a good four innings of work, the bullpen put together a horrendous outing, and State's bats, as they so often have this year, went ice cold. The Razorbacks scored nine-straight runs to come back from six down to win comfortably.

There's no excusing that. On Friday and Saturday, MSU's bullpen allowed 11 runs in five innings of work. That's horrible. But the lineup isn't without blame either. State left 37 runners on base over the weekend. That's more than 12 a game, and that's a lot of wasted chances to put away your opponent. State didn't, and it came back to haunt them.

Again, Mississippi State, at a minimum, did what was necessary to stay in hosting contention. They're still in good shape there. But had they won this series, they'd have nearly been a lock to host and, potentially, could've put themselves in the conversation to earn a national seed. That's out the door now.

The flashes of brilliance from this squad suggest that if they just put it all together, they could go on a serious run in the tournament. But that's what makes them so frustrating. They can't seem to ever put it all together and frequently make costly mistakes at the most inopportune times.

Somehow, those mistakes have to vanish, especially with the postseason looming.