May 27, 2011 8:30:00 AM
HOOVER, Ala. -- It was over after the first inning.
The Mississippi State baseball team gave up four first-inning runs to the University of Arkansas and lost 7-2 in an elimination game Thursday at the Southeastern Conference tournament at Regions Park.
The Bulldogs looked sluggish in the 9:30 a.m. start, as pitcher Nick Routt surrendered a leadoff single, a walk, and had a wild pitch that gave up an extra base. An error by catcher Cody Freeman followed that allowed the Razorbacks to load the bases three batters into the game.
Arkansas, which advanced to today''s third round, played its second straight 9:30 a.m. start.
"I think early in the morning, both teams are a little tired and you just have to find a way to overcome that," MSU coach John Cohen said. "Arkansas did a little bit better job of that than we did, so that''s more credit to them."
The four-run first inning allowed ace DJ Baxendale to pitch five innings, though he admitted he was far from his best and suffered fatigue. Baxendale got the win, giving up two earned runs on six hits. He struck out three and walked two.
Three double plays, two of which ended innings, aided Baxendale.
"Most of them came in big-time situations when a hit could of broken the game out, and we made a quick turn on all three of them," Baxendale said. "They were huge for me and able to get me out of some tougher innings."
MSU (34-23) was on the cusp of making a run at Baxendale in the fourth, when tournament hero Nick Vickerson had an RBI double to left. Jaron Shepherd followed with another RBI double to chop the deficit to 5-2. With two runners on and one out, freshman Adam Frazier grounded into a 6-3 double play to end the inning.
"We really thought we had a chance to win the game at that point," Vickerson said. "We put up maybe one more in that inning and get some more momentum, it could have been a lot different. We had a lot of guys line out and stuff, and things just didn''t go our way."
Vickerson went 1-for-2 with an RBI and finished the tournament with four RBIs on 3-for-6 hitting.
In two games in Hoover, the Bulldogs had just three multi-hit games from players, while opponents had eight.
"I felt we took a lot of good swings in the ballgame but hit balls right at people," Cohen said. "That''s how it goes."
For the second straight game, Routt had a short outing, going just 3 1/3 innings and giving up three earned runs (five unearned) on eight hits. He threw 90 pitches before he was pulled in the third. He struck out six and walked three. He also had two wild pitches.
Routt was roughed up in his loss at Fayetteville, Ark., earlier this season, when he gave up six earned runs on eight hits.
After having elbow surgery last season, Routt''s changeup hasn''t been a strikeout pitch, which hampered his ability once he got two strikes on a hitter, Cohen said.
"He''s 85-90 pitches before the fourth inning," Cohen said. "You just cannot survive in this league by doing that. I think Nick knows that. Credit to him for getting ahead in the count as much as he did; he just couldn''t finish it."
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said his team took too many good pitches in a 7-4 loss to Alabama on Wednesday, so there was added emphasis on swinging and playing aggressively Thursday.
Tagging Routt had just as much to do with the overall plan as much as it did honing in on Routt''s fastball, Van Horn said.
"He''s around the zone, so we just went up there and tried to attack," Van Horn said. "He''s got a pretty good breaking ball and throws the changeup, but he basically just tries to beat you with that fastball in and out. When we were hitting it away, he starting coming in and changing it on us. I think we did a good job of attacking his fastball. The other pitches, he''s got to prove he can throw them in the zone."
Arkansas added runs in the fourth, fifth, and sixth. Catcher James McCann went 4-for-5 and drove in a pair of runs to lead a 14-hit attack.
"It was real important for us to get the lead because we never led (against Alabama)," Van Horn said.
While Arkansas hopes to improve its chances of hosting an NCAA regional, MSU hopes its hiccups in Hoover don''t diminish its chances of making the NCAA tournament.
"They played their way in. They deserve it," Van Horn said of MSU.