Friday's SEC baseball takeaways: Arkansas finds another arm, Missouri throws a wrench in things

 Barry Allen and Chris Lee   in Baseball

Photo courtesy of Arkansas athletics.

Here are some thoughts on Southeastern Conference baseball following the action on Friday, May 14.. 

Caden Monke comes through

The only real identifiable problem for Arkansas has been a lack of dependable arms after Patrick Wicklander and Kevin Kopps. The Razorbacks used both in Friday's 6-5 win at Tennessee; Wicklander had his first bad outing in more than a month (2 2/3 innings, five runs, though just one earned) while Kopps did Kopps things with three scoreless innings to improve to 8-0.

In between, the story was angular lefty Caden Monke, who threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings to hold down a Tennessee offense that was clicking when he entered. 

Monke lowered his ERA to 4.07 in 24 1/3 innings, and while that number won't get anyone's attention, this is the number that should: 27 runners allowed. That's a good indicator of pitching effectiveness and if the junior can continue to pitch at that level, it helps the Razorbacks' pitching plight considerably.

The Razorbacks (38-9, 18-7) now sit alone at the top of the SEC standings. 

Kopps wins 15-pitch at-bat

Arkansas right hander Kevin Kopps and Tennessee first baseball treated the jam-packed Lindsey Nelson Stadium crowd time an epic at-bat in the seventh inning Friday night.

The game was tied 5-5 and Kopps had just issued a two-out walk to Evan Russell.

Lipcius strolled to the plate and got ahead in the count 1-0. Kopps bounced back with two called strikes to get ahead 1-2.

Then the battle ensued.

Lipcius fouled off the next two pitches before taking a ball to even the count at 2-2.

Lipcius then fouled off six straight two strike pitches before Kopps missed with a ball to run the count to 3-2.

After another foul ball, Kopps got Lipcius swinging on the 15th pitch of the at-bat for the inning-ending strikeout.

It was an epic sequence as both Lipcius and Kopps showed mental toughness in a high leverage situation in such an important game.

Missouri stuns Mississippi State

We've talked all week about how Mississippi State seemed to be in the driver's seat for the SEC title, given its three home games with Missouri this weekend, followed by three winnable games at Alabama next weekends. The Bulldogs almost didn't take care of business on Thursday night, coming from behind to beat the Tigers late by a 5-4 count after Missouri's pitching and defense imploded from the seventh inning on.

Apparently Thursday's close call didn't make a difference as the Tigers pulled off a 7-6 win in Starkville.

And let's give the Tigers their due. Sophomore first baseman Torin Montgomery--who's been Missouri's best player this year--was 4-for-5 with a run scored, and the Tigers' beleaguered bullpen carved out four scoreless innings between Konnor Ash and Spencer Miles.

Missouri (13-33, 6-20) remains behind Texas A&M and Auburn (both 7-18) in the chase for the last spot for the SEC tournament.

Ole Miss'z Nikhazy comes up big

After losing ace Gunnar Hoglund for the year, it was hard to see Ole Miss winning its series with Vanderbilt unless it won the Friday game. Well, lefty Doug Nikhazy took care of that for the Rebels, out-dueling Vandy's Kumar Rocker in a 3-1 Rebel win.

Nikhazy struck out 10 over seven innings, baffling Vanderbilt with a fastball that sat around 89-91 and a breaking ball in the mid-70s. Nikhazy's a lefty who hides the ball well and he was particularly tough for the three Commodore lefties in the lineup to pick up. 

Nikhazy now owns a 2.47 ERA for the season. 

LSU's damage control makes a difference

LSU pitchers Landon Marceaux and Devin Fontenot gave a lesson in damage control at Alex Box Stadium.

The duo allowed 13 hits but only one run in the Tigers 2-1 victory Friday night.

Marceaux allowed a career-high 11 hits in 6 1/3 scoreless innings. Fontenot allowed one run on two hits in 2 2/3 innings.

The bottom third of the Alabama batting order combined for eight hits. First baseman Davis Heller was 4-for-4 in his first start subbing for the injured Drew Williamson. Heller entered the game 2-for-20 in limited action. Shortstop Jim Jarvis had three hits and centerfielder Caden Rose had one hit.

The Crimson Tide had three hits in both the fourth and fifth innings, but did not score.

UA second baseman Peyton Wilson was 0-for-5 and stranded eight base runners from the leadoff spot. He made the third out in four different innings.