FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – With his team needing a lift, Mississippi State senior right-handed pitcher Kendall Graveman answered the call.
Throwing his fourth complete game in the Maroon and White, Graveman threw a masterpiece as No. 16 MSU knocked off No. 11 Arkansas 4-1 in a Saturday afternoon Southeastern Conference baseball contest played at Baum Stadium.
Needing only 99 pitches, Graveman (3-2) allowed a first-inning and run had a stretch where he retired 21 Razorbacks in a row. For the contest, the Bulldog co-captain allowed five hits, hit one batter and faced only six batters past the minimum.
“Kendall was really special,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “He put the whole team on his back. He said he wasn’t going to walk anybody but he was going to force contact. He was a difference maker. We also played fabulous defense. Everybody on our infield made a special play.
“That is what we are. That is our identity. I think our game is being played on a really high level on that side right now.”
With the victory, MSU improved to 23-7 overall and 3-5 in league play, while Arkansas fell to 20-8 and 5-3. The Bulldogs will try to win a conference series for the first time this season and for the first time in Fayetteville since 2007 with Sunday’s 1:05 p.m. rubber game.
The Bulldogs erased an early 1-0 deficit with two scores in the fourth inning and single scores in the fifth and sixth innings.
In the fourth inning, C.T. Bradford started things by reaching on one of two Arkansas errors. Hunter Renfroe followed with a hit, extending his hit streak to 15 games. After a flyout, Wes Rea lined a game-tying RBI-single. After a groundout by Brett Pirtle, Sam Frost was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Robson then capped his nine pitch at-bat with a bases-loaded walk.
“I thought we were really good in situations today,” Cohen said. “(Jacob) Robson has a great at-bat where he gets a walk and that forced in the go-ahead run. C.T.(Bradford) gets a critical bunt down. That is where we are right now. Those are the things that we have do. I thought situationally, we were really great today.”
MSU expanded the lead with an RBI-single by Alex Detz in the fifth inning, while the final run scored on a double play ball an inning later.
Arkansas starter Ryne Stanek (2-2), the reigning SEC pitcher of the week, was lifted in the fifth inning. Stanek allowed three hits and three runs (all earned), with six strikeouts and two walks.
Graveman allowed two runners in each of the final two at-bats but a groundout ended the eighth inning and a strikeout ended the ninth inning.
Renfroe had two of MSU’s six hits. Tyler Spoon and Brian Anderson each had multiple hits for Arkansas.
The Easter Sunday rubber match will be televised regionally by Cox Sports and Comcast Sports Southeast. It will also be available via ESPN3.com (subject to blackout).
The Bulldogs have tabbed junior right-hander Ben Bracewell (0-0, 0.00) for a start in Sunday's series finale opposite Arkansas senior lefty Randall Fant (1-0, 1.19).