The Bulldog Box Score: MSU mistakes open door for Arkansas

Bulldogs let game get away in the middle innings
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Mississippi State veteran right fielder Tanner Allen has never been one to mince words. He's not afraid to let you know how he's feeling. 

In the moments after No. 3 MSU fell to No. 2 Arkansas by a score of 11-5 on Saturday – giving the Razorbacks the first two games of this weekend's three-game series – Allen did what Allen does. He shared his feelings in a candid manner.

“I’m going to be honest with you...it’s embarrassing getting beat at home,” Allen said. “We have such a great fan base. We have such a great program. We take pride in winning at home and so far that hasn’t happened, but the weekend’s not over.”

It's the game of baseball. Things happen. The ball doesn't always bounce your way. But make no mistake about it, part of the reason Allen was feeling some embarrassment was likely because Saturday was a game that, for so long, it looked like MSU would win. Then it all went the other direction.

MSU led 3-0 after an inning. The Bulldogs were up 4-1 through four.

"We were playing with energy," Allen said. "We had the crowd rolling. We were scoring early (and) throwing strikes...but when you play great teams you've got to play perfect. We had a few errors and let a pop-up drop."

And it was the pop up Allen referenced that really opened the floodgates that the Bulldogs never could really shut. 

State led 4-2 with two outs in the top of the fifth. The Razorbacks got a two-out single from Cayden Wallace, but MSU looked to be out of the inning when Brady Slavens popped one into shallow left field. Only one problem for the Bulldogs...neither third baseman Kamren James or shortstop Lane Forsythe took control. Left fielder Brayland Skinner couldn't get there. The ball fell between all three guys.

It was ruled a double. Wallace advanced to third. Instead of being back in the dugout, the Bulldogs were in major trouble and Arkansas took advantage when Christian Franklin smacked a three-run homer off MSU's Will Bednar that put the Razorbacks in front 5-4.

Yes, Allen led off the bottom of the fifth with a solo homer of his own to tie the game at 5-5. But Arkansas got to MSU reliever Brandon Smith for five runs over the course of the sixth and seventh innings to essentially put the game away.

"It’s a windy day and we lose two fly balls," State head coach Chris Lemonis said, also accounting for a Rowdey Jordan miscue in centerfield that had allowed Arkansas to score its first run of the day. "It kind of sparks them and gives them momentum. That's not an excuse. We have to catch them. We’ve caught them all year long. I think it’s the first two fly balls we haven’t caught all year and it ended up being very costly."

It of course didn't help matters for Mississippi State that its bats went cold in the late innings. Arkansas reliever Kevin Kopps shut down the Bulldogs over the final four frames, allowing just two hits and striking out seven.

And when Kopps recorded the final out of the ninth, the Bulldogs could do nothing but hope for a better day on Sunday. That's when MSU will try to avoid the sweep in a 2 p.m. central game.

"(Sunday) is probably the biggest day of the year for us, to see how we respond," Lemonis said. "I told (the guys) we’re a really good team, but we have to play better. We haven’t played well the last two days. We’ve had a lot of guys not play well."

Allen is hoping when he walks off the field on Sunday, it won't be another day where the word 'embarrassing' comes to mind.

“We were punched in the face at home,” Allen said. “To be honest with you, we’ve been getting told how great we were and I almost feel like sometimes some of our guys, we just roll up to the field (like) we’re going to win. No, not in this league. You’ve got to bring it every single day. Anybody can beat anybody. We’ve got some learning to do, but big day (Sunday). We’re ready for it.”

(NOTE: YOU CAN WATCH ALLEN'S FULL POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE. TO WATCH LEMONIS' FULL POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE, CLICK HERE.)

Alright, let's take a look at the numbers, MSU MVPs of the day, the moment of the game and a couple of notes.

Arkansas at Mississippi State box score

GAME23

MSU Offensive MVP: RF Tanner Allen

Tanner Allen had two hits, including a home run and two RBI on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Mississippi State athletics)

Tanner Allen had two hits, including a home run and two RBI on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Mississippi State athletics)

Allen did his part offensively on Saturday. He went 2-for-5, including a home run and two RBI.

The Bulldog veteran gave State an early lead with his run-scoring hit in the first inning that made it 1-0 MSU. Then, he cranked his dinger in the fifth to tie the game 5-5 at the time. 

The only other MSU player with more than one hit on Saturday was Brad Cumbest, who entered in the sixth inning and ended up having a couple of infield singles.

MSU Pitching MVP: RP Carlisle Koestler

No Bulldog had a fantastic day on the mound Saturday, but Koestler's showing was at the very least helpful. 

He pitched the final three innings and allowed just a run and three hits. Perhaps most importantly, his showing allowed the Bulldogs to hold back important bullpen arms like Landon Sims and Houston Harding for likely use on Sunday.

Moment of the Game: A critical miscue

Perhaps Mississippi State would've ultimately lost Saturday's game anyway, but there's no doubt where things changed. 

The harmless pop into shallow left that fell between James, Forsythe and Skinner was a killer. If that play is made, MSU heads to the bottom of the fifth up 4-2 instead down 5-4. That one miscue handed the Razorbacks momentum that never really faded the rest of the day.

Notes

– Skinner was removed from left field after five innings. He was hit in the knee by a pitch in the fourth and the Bulldogs elected to take Skinner out.

"He just really tightened up," Lemonis said of Skinner. "It hit him right in the knee. He just couldn’t move real well. (It was) part of the problem with that one pop up (that fell before the Arkansas three-run homer). Maybe on a normal day (Skinner) catches that."

– Smith has been excellent in relief all year for MSU, but that wasn't the case on Saturday. The right-hander was charged with five runs over an inning-plus of work. He saw his season ERA jump from 0.53 all the way up to 3.00.

"Brandon is a sinker ball pitcher and he was up (in the zone)," Lemonis said. "I don’t know what happened there. He’s been really good for us all year, a really good pitcher. But (Arkansas) made us pay for it."

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