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Bulldogs come in with red hot streak | The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

FAYETTEVILLE – No. 15 Mississippi State is currently playing about as good baseball as anyone in the SEC and the Bulldogs have the stats to back it up heading into a series against No. 3 Arkansas that begins Friday at Baum-Walker Stadium.

The Bulldogs (32-16, 14-10 SEC) have won a total of 10 of their past 12 games and 7 of 9 in SEC play, putting them within striking distance of the SEC West-leading Razorbacks (40-9 , 17-7) with There are still six games to play in the regular season.

While Arkansas has gone 5-4 in the past three SEC series against South Carolina, Florida and Kentucky, the Bulldogs won two games while beating Auburn and winning two of three games against Vanderbilt and Alabama.

“It’s going to be a great series,” Mississippi State Coach Chris Lemonis said. “Obviously, Arkansas is one of the top three teams in the country and they would probably be No. 1 in the country if they could just play at home.”

Indeed, Arkansas is 31-2 at Baum-Walker Stadium after a 29-game winning streak at the venue turned into a 9-5 series-ending loss to Florida on April 27.

The Bulldogs had finals this week, as did the Razorbacks, and will resume practice on Wednesday. They will practice today at Baum-Walker.

The Bulldogs, who have failed to qualify for an NCAA regional the past two seasons with records of 26-30 and 27-26 after winning the 2021 College World Series, are in talks to join other SEC teams this season organize regionally. Arkansas, No. 1 Tennessee, No. 2 Texas A&M, No. 5 Kentucky and No. 12 Georgia.

“Mississippi State is as hot as anyone,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn told the crowd at Swatter’s Club on Monday. “They can pitch, they can hit hard and they can defend.”

The Bulldogs were 7-8 in SEC play midway through the league schedule before switching gears.

Mississippi State has the best fielding percentage (.984) in conference games and the second-best earned run average in league games (4.68) behind Arkansas.

The Bulldogs have a good collection of veterans like right fielder Dakota Jordan (.367, 16 home runs, 56 RBI), center fielder Connor Hujsack (.349, 8, 41), shortstop David Mershon (.339, 4, 34, 22 of 24 steals bases), left fielder Bryce Chance (.289, 5, 31), first baseman Hunter Hines (.286, 14, 47) and design hitter Amani Larry (.241, 4, 24).

Third baseman Logan Kohler (.226, 4, 27), a transfer from Memphis, hit two home runs in Sunday’s loss to Alabama. The 6-1 left-handed hitter recorded 17 home runs in his last two seasons with the Tigers.

“They are good players,” said Van Horn. “They started out pretty good, but then things didn’t go well. They probably pitched a lot better than they did at the beginning, and that’s usually where it starts.”

Lemonis lamented the fact that the Bulldogs swept Alabama on Sunday before giving up four runs in the second inning and trailing 8-1 through six innings.

“I just didn’t show up, locked in and ready to go,” Lemonis said. “You’re dealing with 18- to 22-year-olds and they do that, they get excited. They’re like, ‘Hey, I got two of the three… We got the series.’ And they just don’t understand the importance of everything, of business.

“Because you really make up for someone who fools you along the way. I think that’s the hardest part. It’s on me, like I said. My job is to motivate them and make sure they understand that “But it’s a frustrating day, not being able to come out and be locked up like you should be.”

Right-hander Khal Stephen (7-3, 2.96 ERA), a transfer from Purdue, has emerged as the staff ace with an SEC-leading 70 innings and a strong WHIP of 1.04.

Sophomore Jurrangelo Cijntje (7-1, 3.53), previously an ambidextrous pitcher who has now become primarily right-handed, has logged 66 1/3 innings and also has a strong 1.13 WHIP.

Senior right-hander Brooks Auger (1-2, 4.13) allowed 4 runs on 2 hits, 3 walks and a hit batter in 2 innings in last Sunday’s 10-5 loss to Alabama as the Bulldogs headed to a ‘ sweep’.

“I’ll be honest, it’s been a while since we haven’t had a really good start, I mean someone giving us five or six (innings),” Lemonis said. “It puts the game in a different direction. It just wasn’t good. I mean, I don’t understand it. He’s been good for us lately, but it wasn’t a great performance.”

photo Mississippi State, led by coach Chris Lemonis (above), has won 10 of its past 12 games overall and 7 of 9 in SEC play. The No. 15 Bulldogs head to Fayetteville on Friday to take on the No. 3 Arkansas Razorbacks. (AP file photo)