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Despite Smith’s rough start, Hogs come back to down Mississippi State

Hudson White helps Razorbacks overcome Hagen Smith’s rocky start to pull out 7-5 win over Bulldogs in series-opening win.



FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Hudson White’s team-leading four RBI and Gage Wood’s bases-loaded save in the ninth helped No. 5 Arkansas (41-9, 18-7 SEC) gut out a 7-5 come-from-behind win against No. 14 Mississippi State (32-17,14-11 SEC) Friday night at Baum-Walker Stadium in the series opener between SEC Western Division foes.

With Friday’s win, Arkansas stayed within one game of Kentucky (36-10, 19-6 SEC) in the overall SEC race and extended its lead over Texas A&M (41-9, 16-9 SEC) in the SEC West to two games with five games left to play in the regular season.

“Just a gritty win by our team,” Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn said later. “We get up three and get within one out of getting out of a jam and they got a big hit by Hines on a slider that didn’t slide as much as normal. Give him credit, he did a great job of keeping that ball fair. We were just hanging in there. Hit a home run an inning or two later and took the lead and gave it right back to them in the eighth. Holding them to two in that inning was big. Because, I don’t know, they scored two runs and maybe got one hit somewhere in there.”

Razorback ace Hagen Smith lasted five innings, allowing three runs on four hits and four walks with 11 strikeouts. The junior left-hander recorded his program-record 10th double-digit strikeout game of the season but snapped his streak of consecutive quality starts at eight, failing to go at least six in a game for the first time since against McNeese on March 9.

“It wasn’t one of his better ones,” Van Horn said about Smith. “He threw 30 pitches in the first inning and they didn’t score on him. And like Hagen seems to be able to do, his stuff is so good, he went through the middle of that order and got us back in the dugout. But that’s through 30 pitches. The second inning he threw six and we’re like, ‘OK, we’re back on track.’ He just didn’t have the command that he normally does. “We’ve kind of been waiting for it, honestly, because he’s been so good and so consistent. Maybe he’s got that behind him and he can move on now. He’s been better obviously and he’s a lot better than that. But it was just that night and Mississippi  State did a good job of fouling off some pitches and getting his count up.”

After exchanging zeroes through Friday night’s first two innings of play, Arkansas opened the scoring with a three-spot in the bottom of the third. Jared Sprague-Lott, who finished 3-for-4 with three runs scored and a solo homer, scored on a wild pitch before White clobbered a two-run home run to the Hog Pen in left field, giving the Hogs an early 3-0 edge.

Mississippi State would answer with three runs of its own in the top half of the fourth to even the game at three apiece. Sprague-Lott’s solo blast – his seventh of the year – in the bottom of the fifth, however, put the Razorbacks back up, 4-3.

With Smith out of the ballgame after five, the Bulldogs went to work against the Razorback bullpen by scratching across a pair of runs in the top of the eighth. After a fielding error with one out, Mississippi State tied the game at four on a bases-loaded walk before opening a 5-4 advantage – its first and only lead of Friday night’s game – on a sac fly to center.

Will McEntire, who earned the win to improve to 4-0, entered in relief of Gabe Gaeckle, who charged with two unearned runs in his 1.1 innings, and wiggled out of the jam to bring the Razorbacks back to the plate in the bottom of the eighth.

The Hogs, who have shown a knack for responding all season, did exactly that. Wehiwa Aloy’s one-out RBI single tied the game at five before White, who finished 2-for-4, drove in the go-ahead runs on his two-RBI single later in the inning.

With Arkansas ahead by two in the ninth, Mississippi State loaded the bases with no outs against McEntire. Gage Wood relieved the veteran right-hander and stranded all three inherited runners by inducing a pair of infield pop-ups and recording a strikeout to secure his second save of the season and lock down Arkansas’ 7-5 series-opening win.

The Hogs, who have won nine straight SEC home weekend series since last season and 21 of their last 22 SEC home weekend series since 2019, look to clinch yet another SEC home weekend series win tomorrow night. First pitch in game two between Arkansas and Mississippi State is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday, May 11, on SEC Network+.

You can hear the game, starting with the pregame at 5:30 p.m. with Phil Elson and Bubba Carpenter on HitThatLine in selected markets and on the radio at ESPN Arkansas 95.3 in the River Valley, 96.3 in Hot Springs and 104.3 in Harrison-Mountain Home.

Information from Arkansas Communications is included in this story.