March 30, 2013 11:26:21 PM
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- With his team needing a lift, senior right-handed pitcher Kendall Graveman answered the call.
Throwing his fourth complete game, Graveman played a key role Saturday in the No. 25 Mississippi State University baseball team's 4-1 victory against No. 15 University of Arkansas in game two of their Southeastern Conference series 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. The Bulldog co-captain allowed five hits, hit one batter, and faced only six batters past the minimum.
"Kendall was really special," MSU 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."
With the victory, MSU improved to 23-7 and 3-5 in the SEC, while Arkansas fell to 20-8 and 5-3.
The Bulldogs erased a 1-0 deficit with two scores in the fourth inning and single scores in the fifth and sixth.
In the fourth inning, C.T. Bradford started things by reaching on one of two 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. Jacob Robson then capped his nine pitch at-bat with a bases-loaded walk.
"I thought we were really good in situations today," Cohen said. "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. Those are the things 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. He 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.
Renfroe had two of MSU's six hits. Tyler Spoon and Brian Anderson each had multiple hits for Arkansas.
Comcast Sports Southeast will televise the final game of the series at 1:05 p.m. today. Arkansas is scheduled to start senior left-hander Randall Fant (1-0, 1.19 ERA), while MSU hasn't announced its starter.
MSU will try to win a conference series for the first time this season, and for the first time in Fayetteville since 2007
n On Friday, MSU dropped its third straight one-run decision in the SEC, falling 5-4.
The Bulldogs scored one run in the ninth inning but couldn't tie the game. With runners at second and third base and no outs, the Bulldogs had back-to-back popups, an intentional walk to load the bases, and a strikeout to end the game.
Arkansas won its fourth-straight game in league play, while MSU has lost seven of 12 since winning the first 17 to start the season.
"Our kids hung in there and kept battling," Cohen said. "They are really hurting. All we can do is keep battling. I felt really good about having (Adam Frazier and Bradford) up there in the ninth inning. They just didn't get it done. You can always point to the ninth inning. We lost the game before that."
Making his first start in SEC play this season, Luis Pollorena allowed four hits and four runs (all earned) in 6 1/3 innings. The senior left-hander walked eight and had control issues that allowed the Razorbacks to score single runs in the first and third.
MSU battled back from that early deficit with two runs in the sixth inning and a go-ahead score in the seventh.
In the sixth, the Bulldogs began their rally with two outs. Renfroe singled and Detz followed with an RBI double. Rea followed with an RBI single to chase starter Barrett Astin. A pop-up ended this threat.
In the seventh, an RBI single by Nick Ammirati gave the Bulldogs a 3-2 lead.
Arkansas came back with three runs thanks to a triple by Matt Vinson in the home half of the seventh. A single and walk set the inning up and chased Pollorena. In relief, Myles Gentry hit a batter to load the bases before being touched for the triple.
"Things aren't happening for us in the road in the conference," Cohen said. "We basically let one batter beat us on the triple. We are close and our kids are competing. This was a great game played in a great environment. If we keep competing like this, we will win our fair share of games."
MSU had 11 hits, including Renfroe's first four-hit game as a Bulldog. He has hit safely in 14 straight games. Detz and Pirtle each added multiple hits.
Arkansas had seven hits, including multiple-hit games by Tyler Spoon and Joe Serrano.