Legendary boxer Mike Tyson once said that everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. Well on Friday night at Dudy Noble Field, No. 3 Mississippi State's plot for the evening quickly got dashed as the Bulldogs took several early haymakers from No. 2 Arkansas and never recovered.
The Razorbacks hit three first-inning solo home runs off of MSU starting pitcher Christian MacLeod and Arkansas rolled to an 8-2 victory over the Bulldogs. As simple as it sounds, this just wasn't State's night – on the mound or at the plate. And it all started with the rough first frame.
"(MacLeod) just wasn’t as sharp as he was last weekend," MSU head coach Chris Lemonis said. "When you’re not sharp and you don’t make good pitches to good hitters, that’s what happens. They were able to get on him in the first and kind of set the tone for the night."
Matt Goodheart and Cayden Wallace hit back-to-back homers to put Arkansas up 2-0. Christian Franklin made it 3-0 with a blast of his own later in the frame. In the fourth inning, Franklin got to MacLeod for a second time, driving another one over the wall to put Arkansas up 4-0.
All the while, MSU's bats were silent. The Bulldogs didn't get their first hit until the fifth inning. Arkansas starting pitcher Patrick Wicklander was a bit wild, issuing four walks and hitting a batter over five innings, but the Bulldogs couldn't capitalize.
In all, MSU tallied just four hits. Half of those came in the ninth inning. The only runs State mustered came on Rowdey Jordan's RBI single in the fifth and Lane Forsythe's run-scoring hit in the final frame. It was an utterly disappointing offensive night for MSU.
"We’ve got to get aggressive to the fastball," Lemonis said. "Right now we’re not hitting the fastball. Hopefully we can be a little better (Saturday)."
On Saturday, MSU will face Arkansas right-hander Zebulon Vermillion. The Bulldogs will counter on the mound with a right-hander of their own – Will Bednar. First pitch from Dudy Noble Field is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Before then though, let's take a look at Friday's numbers, MSU MVPs, the Moment of the Game and a couple of notes.
Arkansas at Mississippi State box score
MSU Offensive MVP: SS Lane Forsythe
When Forsythe took over the starting shortstop job for State, he was viewed primarily as a guy playing for his glove. But so far, he has been pretty consistent offensively as well.
Forsythe accounted for half of MSU's hits on Friday with his 2-for-4 night. He also drove in one of State's two runs. Forsythe's batting average for the year is now all the way up to .359.
Rowdey Jordan was maybe the only other Bulldog who could've been considered for this spot. He was 1-for-3 and drove in MSU's other run.
You can hear from Jordan as his full postgame press conference can be found at the top of this page.
MSU Pitching MVP: RP Stone Simmons
Simmons' final line wasn't all that impressive as he was charged with two runs over 2.2 innings of work, but he was incredibly strong in relief following MacLeod's early exit. Simmons came in during the fourth inning and went on to retire seven straight Arkansas hitters.
Simmons got State into the seventh inning as he helped save some of MSU's strong bullpen arms for later in the weekend. Things got away from Simmons a little in the seventh as he allowed a couple of baserunners that ultimately scored after he left the game. But Simmons, for the most part, looked good and preserved some Bulldog bullets for Saturday and Sunday.
"He’s good," Lemonis said of Simmons. "He’s got a chance to be really good. I’d like to see him command a little better. I think the last inning or so, he lost command. He’s a power guy and has a real chance to be a really good pitcher for us."
Moment of the Game: Bombs away in the first
A baseball game is never over until its over, but the first inning sure seemed to indicate this might be a long night for Mississippi State.
Arkansas' three home runs in the first inning put the Razorbacks in total control. And really at no point for the rest of the night did it feel like the Bulldogs were primed to make a comeback.
– Mississippi State relief pitcher Riley Self suffered an injury in the middle of his appearance on Friday. The right-hander seemed to be heavily favoring his right arm after throwing a few pitches in the eighth inning. He was forced to leave the game in the middle of facing a hitter. Lemonis had no solid update postgame, but seemed to be bracing for possible bad news.
"I don’t have anything yet," Lemonis said. "We’ll have him looked at Monday and try to figure it out. It didn’t look good just from years in the dugout. You hate it. (He's an) awesome kid, and passionate kid. He’s a big part of who we are. You hate to see him walk off the field that way."
– After leading off for MSU on Wednesday, left fielder Brayland Skinner was back in the bottom part of the lineup on Friday, hitting eighth. Scotty Dubrule led off for the Bulldogs, but why not stick with Skinner on Friday? Lemonis was asked about that postgame.
"You had a left-handed pitcher (for Arkansas) and Scotty (Dubrule) hits .400-something against left-handers," Lemonis said. "(Arkansas') pitcher had to come out his last start because he didn’t throw strikes. Scotty’s got a little bit better eye (than Skinner). (The Arkansas pitcher) threw a lot of balls tonight. We were hoping to get the inning going in the first maybe with him not throwing strikes. Brayland, with just four or five starts under his belt, we wanted to have a situation where we'd be able to let him relax and hit down in the order."