Hogs score late, again, to sweep
Arkansas' Michael Bernal, from left clockwise, and Bobby Wernes congratulate Andrew Benintendi on his home run Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014, while crossing home plate during the game against Eastern Illinois at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Similar game, same results.
Arkansas scored six runs in its final two at-bats for the second consecutive day, this time rallying from a one-run deficit to complete a three-game sweep and beat Eastern Illinois 8-3 on Sunday in front of an announced crowd of 2,421 at a chilly Baum Stadium.
The Razorbacks scored two runs in the seventh inning on an RBI single from Brian Anderson and a sacrifice fly from Brett McAfee to take a 4-3 lead and then broke the game open with a four-run eighth inning, securing Arkansas’ sixth consecutive victory.
“If you let the other team hang around and hang around it will get you,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “It almost got us [Saturday] and it almost got us today.
“What they did show me is when they get down they don’t panic and they can come back.”
Eastern Illinois (1-6) took advantage of wild Arkansas pitching and a single from Demetre Taylor to score three runs and take a 3-2 lead in the seventh, the Panthers’ first lead of the series.
But the Razorbacks (6-0) stayed true to their early season form and regained the lead in the bottom of the seventh. Leadoff hitter Andrew Benintendi and Joe Serrano each drew one-out walks and Anderson, who was 2 for 3 on the day, singled up the middle to tie the game at 3-3.
“He didn’t mess around,” Van Horn said of Anderson’s single. “He got a first-pitch breaking ball and didn’t try and do anything with it but hit it right back where it came from. He smoked it through the middle.
“A lot of kids come up in that situation and try to hit a home run and he just stayed through the ball and did a great job.”
Tyler Spoon, the cleanup hitter, was intentionally walked to load the bases before McAfee hit a sacrifice fly to right, scoring Serrano and giving the Razorbacks the lead for good.
Junior reliever Jacob Stone (2-0), who got the victory, retired the Panthers in order in the eighth and Arkansas blew the game open with a four-run, four-hit bottom of the inning, highlighted by a three-run double from Spoon.
“That was an awfully big hit by Tyler Spoon,” Van Horn said. “He was fighting it a little bit and when they didn’t pitch to Brian, I think Spoon embraced that moment and just really, really wanted to take advantage of it. Nobody had to say anything to him. … it was great to see him come through.”
It was a pitch thrown right where he wanted it, Spoon said.
“I figure when there were runners at second and third they would probably walk Brian because he had just been hammering the ball all weekend,” Spoon said. “I was ready. I just told myself, take whatever pitch you can and just don’t try to do too much. Luckily I was able to get a fast ball middle in and I took advantage of it.”
Panthers Coach Jim Schmitz, one victory short of 500 in 20 seasons at East Illinois, said Arkansas’ hitters have a good understanding of what they are doing at the plate.
“They have guys who know how to get hit by pitches - they obviously teach that - and they have guys who just know how to get on base,” Schmitz said. “And then they let the middle of the lineup guys knock them in.”
Arkansas took a 2-0 lead in the third inning when Benintendi hit his first home run,a no-doubt-about it shot to right field.
Eastern Illinois, which left 13 runners on base, had scoring opportunities in the second and third innings but failed to score each time. They loaded the bases with one out in the second inning against Razorbacks starter Alex Phillips and had two on with one out in the third against Arkansas reliever Zach Jackson.
Jackson struck out two to close the third-inning threat.
Arkansas, which left 10 runners on base, had 10 hits, with Benintendi, Anderson, Spoon and Eric Fisher with two each. The Razorbacks used a season-high six pitchers. Starter Alex Phillips gave up 1 hit and 3 walks while striking out 1 in 2 innings of work.
“I’d like to see us put some better innings together earlier,” Van Horn said. “It’s nice to score 2, 3, 4 runs an inning and those usually put games away, but we need to put together some more innings where we put pressure on them with a run here, run there.”
Sports, Pages 13 on 02/24/2014