Razorbacks battered, bruised … triumphant
Arkansas pitcher Chris Oliver fires a pitch in the 2nd inning of the Razorbacks' game against Vanderbilt Sunday, April 20, 2014, at Baum Stadium.
FAYETTEVILLE - The Arkansas Razorbacks took some shots from Vanderbilt on Sunday.
Second baseman Brian Anderson was hit in the head by a pitch from Vanderbilt starter Tyler Ferguson in the first inning and Razorbacks starter Chris Oliver took a line drive off his right leg from Ro Coleman in the sixth inning.
Anderson and Oliver, though, stayed in the game and helped the Razorbacks beat the Commodores 3-1 before an announced crowd of 3,474 at Baum Stadium.
Oliver (5-3) went 6 2/3 innings and allowed one run - Bryan Reynolds’ home run in the seventh inning - for his third consecutive victory over a nationally ranked team. He was the winning pitcher in the Razorbacks’ victories the previous two weeks over No. 1 South Carolina and No. 8 LSU before beating No. 12 Vanderbilt (29-12 overall, 8-10 SEC).
Anderson, batting a team-leading .320, hit a two-out RBI single off of reliever Adam Ravenelle in the fifth inning to push Arkansas’ lead to 3-0.
When Ferguson (5-3) hit Anderson in the first inning, the ball bounced off his batting helmet.
“It rung my bell a little bit, but I was able to get back in there,” Anderson said. “Luckly, I didn’t take it too square, but it definitely got to me a little bit.”
Oliver retired 16 of the first 17 batters he faced before Coleman’s one-out single off his leg. Oliver went down hard, but got up quickly and stayed in the game.
“It still hurts,” Oliver said. “It’s bruised, but it’s fine. It’s nothing major.”
Dansby Swanson singled to right field after Coleman’s line drive to give the Commodores runners on first and second, but Oliver got Xavier Turner to hit into a double-play to end the scoring threat. Turner, whose fourth-inning single extended his hitting streak to 26 games, hit a grounder to shortstop Michael Bernal, who threw to Anderson for the out at second. Anderson then completed the relay to Eric Fisher at first base.
“Michael was able to pick that ball clean, and he gave me a perfect feed,” Anderson said. “So all I had to do was make the exchange and get it over to Fisher as soon as I could.
“That’s all we’re trying to do is just help out the pitchers, because they’ve done a great job for us. The least we can do is make some plays for them.”
The Razorbacks (25-16, 9-9) improved to 5-1 in conference series finales this season. Their only loss in the third game of an SEC series was at Mississippi State. In addition to Vanderbilt (29-12, 8-10), the Razorbacks have beaten Florida, Alabama, South Carolina and LSU in a series finale.
Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said the success in the third SEC game is a reflection of the Razorbacks’ pitching - Oliver and the bullpen - and the leadership of veteran players like Anderson, catcher Jake Wise and outfielder Tyler Spoon
“Some of the older guys have taken over a little bit, continuing to hammer these guys with how important these Sunday games are,” Van Horn said. “We’ve talked about Sunday games since the fall, talking about the season and the grind and how important Sunday is no matter what the situation is.
“They’ve have done a good job. Hopefully, they will keep doing it.”
Oliver held Vanderbilt to 6 hits and 2 walks with 2 strikeouts.
“Even when he got behind, he threw quality strikes, not just fastballs down the middle,” Wise said. “Even 2-0, he was throwing a quality strike and getting ground balls.”
Zach Jackson replaced Oliver with two outs in the seventh and runners on first and second and got Jason Delay on a pop out that Fisher ran down in foul territory to make an over-the-shoulder catch.
Arkansas closer Michael Gunn replaced Jackson with two outs in the eighth and a runner on first.
He walked the bases loaded, but got Nolan Rogers on a line out to right fielder Andrew Benintendi.
“Sometimes you’ve got to be lucky,” Van Horn said. “He threw a fast ball away and the lefty went out and hooked it, hit it right at the right fielder.”
Before the Vanderbilt series, Van Horn stressed the importance of the Razorbacks getting back to .500 in SEC play.
“It’s just big trying to keep pace with the league,” Anderson said.
“When you’re playing quality teams like we are every weekend, if you’re around . 500 then usually you’ll have a shot at the end.”
NORTHWESTERN (LA.) STATE AT ARKANSAS
WHEN 6:35 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE Baum Stadium, Fayetteville
RECORDS Arkansas 25-16. Northwestern State 22-17.
SERIES Arkansas leads 15-2
TICKETS Reserved $12. General admission $10.
RADIO RSP statewide radio network. Not all games will be carried by affiliates. Check local listings.
PITCHING MATCHUP TBA
SHORT HOPS Arkansas’ pitchers held Vanderbilt to three earned runs in the three-game series … Arkansas has won five consecutive SEC series at home going back to last season … Razorbacks second baseman Brian Anderson has reached base in 17 consecutive games and 35 of 41 games this season … Vanderbilt third baseman Xavier Turner extended his hitting streak to 26 games with a single in the fourth inning … Arkansas has a 29-23 series lead against Vanderbilt.
THE WEEK AHEAD TODAY Off
TUESDAY vs Northwestern State 6:35 p.m.
WEDNESDAY vs Northwestern State 3:05 p.m.
THURSDAY Off FRIDAY vs Auburn 6:35 p.m.
SATURDAY vs Auburn 6:05 p.m.
SUNDAY vs Auburn 1:05 p.m.
SUNDAY’S GAMES Arkansas 3, Vanderbilt 1 Florida 10, Georgia 3 Texas A&M 14, Kentucky 2 Tennessee 10, Alabama 9 Mississippi State 9, Missouri 7 South Carolina 4, Auburn 3
Sports, Pages 13 on 04/21/2014