Matt Jones is the online sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Northwest Arkansas Newspapers.
Spoon's grand slam lifts Arkansas
Tyler Spoon hits a grand slam home run during the eighth inning of a game against Evansville on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013 at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE On a day Arkansas struggled to get runners off the bases, it took only one swing of the bat to reverse the Razorbacks' fortunes.
Tyler Spoon's eighth inning grand slam gave Arkansas the lead and Trent Daniel worked around the bases loaded in the ninth inning as the Razorbacks beat Evansville 5-2 Saturday at Baum Stadium.
Arkansas (6-1) stranded 12 base-runners prior to Spoon's towering home run over the seats in left field. It was the redshirt freshman's second home run this season and extended his hit streak to all seven games.
Despite their offensive struggles, the Razorbacks led the Purple Aces 1-0 heading to the eighth inning thanks in large part to a strong pitching performance by junior Barrett Astin. The right-hander allowed only two hits in six innings and struck out five in a no-decision.
The Razorbacks were unable to take advantage of a rocky start for Evansville starter Sam Johns, who issued six walks in 4 2/3 innings. Arkansas took the lead in the first inning on an Eric Fisher RBI single.
After Cade Lynch worked around a base-runner in the seventh, Evansville took the lead off Razorbacks reliever Jalen Beeks in the eighth on a Jake Mahon sacrifice fly to score Andy Lasher. Beeks rebounded to retire John Day in the next at-bat, stranding a runner at third.
That set the stage for Arkansas' rally in the bottom half of the inning. Willie Schwanke singled to lead-off the frame and was pinch-ran for by Jordan Farris. After a sacrifice bunt advanced the runner, Matt Vinson doubled off the wall, but Farris was unable to score when he fell down rounding third base.
Jacob Morris was hit by a pitch in the next at-bat, bringing up Spoon, a Van Buren native who now has 12 RBIs in the last five games.
Evansville (1-4) made things interesting in the top of the ninth against Arkansas closer Colby Suggs. Kyle Pollock struck out swinging to start the inning, but reached on a wild pitch. Suggs walked three of the next four batters, scoring Pollock.
Daniel, who gave up six runs on eight hits in a loss as a starter last Sunday, struck out Shain Showers for the second out of the inning and got Kevin Kaczmarski to ground out, ending the game.
The two teams will meet again Sunday in the series finale. Freshman right-hander Trey Killian will record his first start on the mound for the Razorbacks.