SEC BASEBALL:

Big hits pile up for Tide

Lightning-fast strike sinks Hogs’ chances

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Saturday, March 22, 2014
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.
Photo by Chelsea Wideman
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 - Arkansas’ run of sedate series-opening pitcher duels ended with a crack Friday night at Baum Stadium.

A crack of lightning followed by a rain shower delayed the Razorbacks’ series opener against Alabama in the fourth inning, and both teams’ formerly pristine bullpens were pounded after the 53-minute delay as Alabama took a 17-9 victory before a crowd of 4,403.

“It was pretty ugly,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “I guess every now and then it happens, but it was just kind of disappointing that it happened tonight.”

Wade Wass and Austen Smith hit three-run home runs for the Crimson Tide (15-6, 3-1 SEC) and Alabama added six more extra-base hits among its 15-hit total to pile up the most runs on Arkansas since a 19-8 loss to Texas in the NCAA Austin Regional on June 5, 2005.

“It was kind of one of those weird games tonight with two teams that had been dominant on the mound being really erratic at best,” Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said. “We squared up a lot of balls, and it was just a real good offensive night for us.

“The wind helped us with a couple of those home runs, but we’ve been pretty hot.”

Arkansas (11-8, 1-3 SEC) had allowed just seven runs in starter Jalen Beeks’ five previous Friday starts.

The teams entered the weekend with the nation’s fourth- and fifth-best pitching staffs, with Alabama’s earned run average at 1.77 and Arkansas’ at 1.82.

Beeks and Alabama right-hander Spencer Trumbull traded zeroes the first three innings, although the Razorbacks racked up 3 hits and 3 walks and stranded 7 men - including runners at third in all three innings - while making Turnbull throw 63 pitches.

The duel ended in the fourth, just before a quick front passed through Northwest Arkansas.

Ben Moore led off with a single and the designated hitter Wass brought him home with a double to the wall in right-center with one out. After Beeks walked Smith, lightning moved in from the west and rain followed closely behind, forcing the weather delay.

Freshman Zach Jackson (0-1), who had not allowed an earned run in 15 1/3 innings, struck out Will Haynie when play resumed, but No. 8 hitter Chance Vincent laced a double down the left-field line for a 3-0 Alabama lead.

The Razorbacks’ rash of stranded runners ended moments later when Tyler Spoon launched a grand slam on the first pitch he saw from reliever Geoffrey Bramblett for a 4-3 Arkansas lead in the bottom of the fourth. Spoon’s blast came after Michael Bernal singled, Andrew Benintendi walked and Brian Anderson was hit by a pitch.

“We felt like we had a lot of momentum at that time,” said Spoon, who hit his second career grand slam and Arkansas’ first since Spoon hit one last Feb. 23 against Evansville.

Alabama went right back to work in the next two innings, strafing the Arkansas bullpen for 12 runs. Jackson had a chance to escape the fifth inning with no damage after allowing a walk, a single and a hit batter with one out,but shortstop Michael Bernal booted a possible double-play ball hit by Kyle Overstreet, which allowed two runs to score. Wass followed with his three-run home run.

“There was a couple of big plays in the game,” Van Horn said. “That double play ball gets us in the dugout with a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the fifth, but it didn’t happen.”

Jay Shaw (1-1) allowed 2 hits and 1 walk over 4 innings to take the victory.

Arkansas’ bullpen entered the night with a 5-0 record and a 1.80 ERA, but it was touched for 13 earned runsand 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings.

Freshman Josh Alberius made his pitching debut for the Razorbacks, recording the final two outs and not allowing a hit.

Every Alabama position player had at least two hits except for catcher Will Haynie, who went 0 for 6 and the left field duo of Hunter Webb and Casey Hughston, who combined to go 0 for 3. Leadoff batter Georgie Salemwent 3 for 6 with 2 runs and 2 RBI.

Bobby Wernes led Arkansas with a 3-for-5 performance, while Andrew Benintendi had two of Arkansas’ 11 hits.

Alabama at Arkansas WHEN 2:05 p.m., today WHERE Baum Stadium, Fayetteville RECORDS Alabama 15-6, 3-1 SEC; Arkansas 11-8, 1-3 SEC TICKETS General admission $10, reserved $12 RADIO RSP statewide radio network. Not all games will be carried by affiliates. Check local listings.

INTERNET www.arkansasrazorbacks.com and ESPN3 PITCHING MATCHUP Alabama: Justin Kamplain (LHP, 2-2, 3.67); Arkansas: Trey Killian (RHP: 0-3, 3.06 ERA) SHORT HOPS Alabama’s 17 runs on Friday night were the most scored against Arkansas since Texas posted a 19-8 victory over the Razorbacks on June 5, 2005, in the NCAA Austin Regional. … The Razorbacks’ team ERA went from 1.82 to 2.53 during Friday’s loss.

THE WEEK AHEAD TODAY Alabama, 2:05 p.m.

SUNDAY Alabama, 1:05 p.m.

MONDAY Off TUESDAY Miss. Valley St., 3:05 p.m. (DH) WEDNESDAY Miss Valley St., 6:35 p.m.* THURSDAY Off FRIDAY at Miss. State, 6:30 p.m.

  • at North Little Rock

FRIDAY’S GAMES Alabama 17, Arkansas 9 LSU 4, Georgia 0 Florida 5, Texas A&M 3 Mississippi 4, Missouri 3 Mississippi State 17, Vanderbilt 2 Kentucky 13, South Carolina 5 Auburn 3, Tennessee 2 TODAY’S GAMES All times Central South Carolina at Kentucky, 1 p.m.

Missouri at Mississippi, 1:30 p.m.

Alabama at Arkansas, 2 p.m.

Florida at Texas A&M, 2 p.m.

Auburn at Tennessee, 3 p.m.

Georgia at LSU, 6:30 p.m.

Vanderbilt at Mississippi State, 7:30 p.m.

Today’s game

ALABAMA AT ARKANSAS WHEN 2:05 p.m.

WHERE Baum Stadium, Fayetteville RECORDS Alabama 15-6, 3-1 SEC; Arkansas 11-8, 1-3 TICKETS General admission $10. Reserved $12 RADIO RSP statewide radio network. Not all games will be carried by affiliates. Check local listings.

INTERNET arkansasrazorbacks.com and ESPN3

Sports, Pages 19 on 03/22/2014

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