Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
COLLEGE BASEBALL NEBRASKA 6, ARKANSAS 4:
Huskers make Hogs pay for mental mistake
Arkansas' Jackson Lowery delivers a pitch Wednesday, April 2, 2014, during the game against Nebraska at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - The key play in Nebraska’s series-splitting victory at Arkansas on Wednesday wasn’t a clutch at-bat or a huge pitch by the Cornhuskers.
It was a balk.
Arkansas reliever Jackson Lowery faked a throw to first base - an automatic balk - with two outs and runners at first and third with the score tied in the fourth inning, allowing the go-ahead run to score. When Ryan Boldt followed with a run-scoring single, Nebraska moved ahead by two runs en route to its 6-4 victory before a crowd of 1,878 at Baum Stadium.
Nebraska (16-13) ended Arkansas’ five-game home winning streak and took its third victory in four games against the Razorbacks (18-11) in the past two seasons.
Lowery (0-1) walked Ben Miller to open the fourth, retired two Cornhuskers, then gave up a single to lead off man Austin Darby before the mental mistake of not throwing to first on his pick off move.
“I don’t know what happened on the balk,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “I’ve never seen that in 25 years, and they get a two-out hit and score two runs after we had just tied it up. That was a little bit of a back-breaker, but we hung in there.”
The Cornhuskers spread their 10 hits among seven batters, led by two hits each from Darby, Boldt and Miller, and got RBI from five players after losing 4-3 to the Razorbacks on Tuesday.
“You come down to Fayetteville, where they are very, very difficult to play, and to split a series, I’ll take that,” Nebraska Coach Darin Erstad said. “We had too many fly balls yesterday. … Last time I checked fly balls don’t go out anywhere, unless you’re at Coors Field.”
Arkansas also racked up 10 hits, all singles, led by Joe Serrano’s 3-for-4 performance. The Razorbacks rued a first inning that could have been much bigger against left hander Kyle Kubat (2-1), who threw five-plus innings in the Cornhuskers’ 2-0 no-hit victory against Arkansas last year.
Andrew Benintendi hit a chopper to first and beat out Austin Christensen’s toss to Kubat covering the bag to open the bottom of the first inning. Serrano followed with a hit-and-run single to right field to send Benintendi to third, and Brian Anderson was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs.
Tyler Spoon hit a hard shot to second that produced a run but turned into a double play, then KJ Wilkerson’s liner to shortstop was caught by Steven Reveles, who made three outstanding defensive plays in the game.
“We’ve got a good chance to get out to a pretty good lead and we only score one run,” Van Horn said. “That was hard. That was a win for them over there in that dugout at the end of one.”
The Cornhuskers scored two in the second off starter Alex Phillips - on Miller’s run-scoring single and a sacrifice bunt by Reveles - and it could have been more. The inning ended on Austin Darby’s single to left field when Serrano fired home and catcher Jake Wise tagged out Miller at the plate.
Arkansas tied the score 3-3 in the third. Brian Anderson’s ground out brought home Michael Bernal, who led off the inning with a single from the nine hole, and Spoon followed with an RBI single that brought in Benintendi, who had also singled.
The Razorbacks drew to within 5-4 in the sixth when pinch-hitter Blake Baxendale worked a bases-loaded walk with two outs, but the inning came to a close with the bases still loaded when Benintendi was nipped at first on a grounder to Reveles.
“We just have to capitalize a little bit better with runners in scoring position,” Serrano said. “You’ve got to battle with two strikes. You have to hit a duck over first base. You have to beat out a throw in the six hole that you just hit.
“I mean, you just try to scratch runs however you can.”
Sports, Pages 15 on 04/03/2014