STARKVILLE-- Mississippi State will enter the final day of the college baseball regular season playing for a championship.
No. 3 MSU moved into a two-way tie for first place in the Southeastern Conference overall standings with a 5-1 win over Arkansas Friday night at Dudy Noble Field.
With the win, MSU improved to 39-14-1 overall and 20-9 in league play. Arkansas fell to 26-28 and 7-22. The Bulldogs have won 10 straight games, while the Razorbacks have lost 12 straight games. Coupled with Thursday night's 7-0 Bulldog victory, MSU clinched its ninth conference series win in 10 weekends of play.
Entering the final day of the regular season, MSU and Texas A&M are both 20-9 in league play, which makes them tied for the Western Division lead and the overall lead in the conference standings. MSU last won the SEC regular-season championship in 1989 and has not won a Western Division championship under the present-day format.
The 20 league wins match the 1989 squad for most conference wins in a season.
"Really proud of the kids," MSU head coach John Cohen said. "This was one of those games where you just try to hang in there. If we don't throw the ball away on a high chopper, they don't score. Austin was able to throw a bunch of changeups early in the count and then put them away with the fastball."
Austin Sexton and Reid Humphreys combined to hold the Razorbacks to five hits and no earned runs.
Sexton (7-2) allowed four hits and one run over seven innings of work, with seven strikeouts and two walks. Humphreys struck out three and worked around one hit in two innings of work for his seventh save.
Ironically, MSU managed only two earned runs, as Arkansas committed two critical errors, on the heels of making five in the series opener.
The Bulldogs erased an early 1-0 deficit with three scores in the third inning. John Holland reached as a hit batsman, Jake Mangum singled and Jack Kruger walked to load the bases. Nathaniel Lowe hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game. A throwing error then allowed the other two runs to come home.
In the eighth inning, the Bulldogs again loaded the bases on consecutive singles by Lowe, Gavin Collins and Jacob Robson. After back-to-back strikeouts, Ryan Gridley had an RBI-single, while another run scored when the ball was thrown away on the infield.
MSU finished with eight hits, which snapped a string of six straight games with 10 or more hits. Gridley had three hits, while Lowe had two hits.
No.2 Texas A&M 11, No. 6 Ole Miss 5: No. 6 Ole Miss scored three runs in the first inning to jump out to an early lead, but a six-run second inning helped lift No. 2 Texas A&M at Blue Bell Park. Sophomore David Parkinson (4-3) was saddled with the loss, despite only two of his eight runs surrendered being earned. Freshman Connor Green pitched a career-high 4.1 innings out of the bullpen. Green also struck out a career-high seven.
At the plate, six Rebels recorded hits, including Henri Lartigue who led Ole Miss (39-16, 17-12 SEC) with a pair of RBI. Will Golsan increased his hitting streak to 13 games, while also reaching base for the 20th consecutive contest.
Third baseman Boomer White had a big day for the Aggies (41-12, 20-9 SEC), going 4-for-5 with one home run and three RBI. J.B. Moss knocked in three runs as well, and Nick Banks added three hits for Texas A&M.
The Rebels forced Texas A&M starter Turner Larkins out of the game after 1.1 innings, scoring three runs off the right hander. Stephen Kolek (3-0) collected the victory in relief, while Andrew Vinson (2) pitched the final five innings to pick up a save.
Ole Miss got off to a hot start with three runs in the first inning. Errol Robinson began the game with a single before back-to-back walks by Tate Blackman and J.B. Woodman loaded the bases. Once again coming through in the clutch, Lartigue singled through the right side of the infield to score Robinson and Blackman; Woodman motored from first to third on the base hit as the Rebels took an early 2-0 lead. One batter later, Colby Bortles hit a deep fly to right field to plate Woodman and increase the Ole Miss advantage to three runs.
In the bottom of second, Texas A&M flipped the three-run deficit into a three-run lead with six unearned runs. After Parkinson retired the first hitter of the inning, three consecutive singles loaded the bases with one out. Bortles stopped a hard grounder at third to throw the lead runner out at home for the second out. The Rebels looked to be out of the inning on another ground ball. However, the ball was mishandled, allowing the batter to reach base, a run to score and the inning kept alive. The Aggies took advantage with two hits to drive in five more runs, including a three-run homer by White. The extra out turned the game upside down as the Rebels found themselves down three after two.
Bortles made his way around the bases to give Ole Miss a run in the fourth. The junior doubled down the right field line to begin the inning before coming home with the help of two groundouts. Michael Fitzsimmons made contact to plate Bortles, making it a 6-4 game.
The Aggies answered with two runs in the bottom half of the inning to double their lead to four. Five hits in the inning lifted Parkinson from the game, but Green got Ole Miss out of the inning.
Ole Miss continued to fight to trim the margin. Robinson walked to begin the inning, and Ryan Olenek singled to get the shortstop into scoring position. Blackman brought Robinson home on a single up the middle to give the Rebels their fifth run of the contest. Green came back out of the dugout to pitch and kept the Aggies off the board. Through five innings, Texas A&M held an 8-5 advantage.
Jonathan Moroney hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh to give the Aggies a pair of insurance runs. Texas A&M added another run in the eighth for the final score.