SEC BASEBALL:

Nothing’s easy in Hogs’ victory

By: STEVE IRVINE SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE
Published: Friday, April 5, 2013
Arkansas' Barrett Astin pitched 4 1/3 innings in the Razorbacks' game at Alabama on Thursday.
Photo by Michael Woods
Arkansas' Barrett Astin pitched 4 1/3 innings in the Razorbacks' game at Alabama on Thursday.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - It took 39 pitches for Arkansas closer Colby Suggs to get the final three outs of a 3-1 victory over Alabama on a dreary Thursday night in the first of a three-game SEC West series at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

In a way, the difficult inning was a fitting end to a night when the Razorbacks (22-8, 7-3 SEC) made things more difficult than needed. If Arkansas had handled things more smoothly on offense, the outcome could have been long decided by the time Alabama (19-12, 7-3) came up for its final at-bat.

Razorback Coach Dave Van Horn made sure his team remembered that.

“I told the team after the game it was a good win,” said Van Horn, whose team moved into a second-place tie with Alabama in the SEC West. “At the same time, we also talked about how we did leave runners out there and that’s disappointing. The bottom line is just win, and that’s what we did. I also told the pitchers they did a tremendous job inning to inning and getting us through it and giving us a chance to win.”

FRIDAY'S TICKET

Arkansas (22-8, 7-3 SEC) vs. Alabama (19-12, 7-3)

WHEN: 6:35 p.m.

WHERE: Sewell-Thomas Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

PITCHING MATCHUP: INTERNET Arkansas RHP Ryne Stanek (2-2, 2.34 ERA) vs. Alabama LHP Jon Keller (3-3, 3.86)

Arkansas had little trouble hitting the ball against three Alabama pitchers. The Razorbacks had 12 hits on the night but few came in timely spots, which led to 13 stranded runners. The Razorbacks also lost a run when first baseman Willie Schwanke was thrown out at the plate on a play where he didn’t slide.

But the Razorback managed to push one run across in the second inning when Jacob Morris’ safety squeeze turned into a RBI single and took advantage of two Alabama errors to score two more runs in the fifth inning.

As it turned out, that was more than enough run support for the five pitchers - Barrett Astin, Jalen Beeks, Trey Killian, Chris Oliver and Suggs - that Van Horn sent to the mound on a rainy night.

“Their arms are really good,” Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said. “Their bullpen was just terrific. Beeks was good, and Oliver was throwing 94 to 97 with a big-league slider. Suggs is 97 miles per hour.”

Astin was sharp the first three innings before running into control problems in the fourth and fifth innings. Beeks took over with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth inning and appeared to get out of the inning right away. But what appeared to be an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play turned into an Alabama run, cutting Arkansas’ lead to 3-1 when Schwanke dropped the throw at first base.

Beeks worked out of the inning after that and pitched two more scoreless innings to run his streak of scoreless innings to 16 2/3.

Alabama didn’t threaten again until the ninth inning. The Crimson Tide opened the inning when second baseman Kyle Overstreet walked on an at-bat that included 11 pitches. After two outs, left fielder Andrew Miller worked Suggs for another walk to put the tying run on base.

Center fielder Georgie Salem worked the count full and fouled off four more pitches before grounding the ball sharply to shortstop Brian Anderson, who threw the ball cleanly to first to end the game.

SHORT HOPS

Arkansas sophomore reliever Jalen Beeks extended his consecutive scoreless innings streak to 16 2/3 innings with 2 2/3 shutout innings Thursday night. … Arkansas’ 12 hits marked the sixth time in 10 conference games this season that the Razorbacks have managed at least 10 hits.

Sports, Pages 17 on 04/05/2013

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