Bernal's timing just right

By: DAVID MORRISON Special to the Democrat-Gazette
Published: Sunday, May 18, 2014
Arkansas' Michael Bernal swings through after connecting on a three run home run against UNLV Tuesday, April 8, 2014, at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
Photo by Anthony Reyes
Arkansas' Michael Bernal swings through after connecting on a three run home run against UNLV Tuesday, April 8, 2014, at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Michael Bernal didn't have much to show after his first four trips to the plate Saturday, but he made up for it in the fifth trip.

Arkansas' shortstop laced a single to drive in the go-ahead run in the 11th inning and then came around to score later as the Razorbacks completed the regular season with a 7-5 victory over Missouri after trailing by four runs in the ninth inning.

Bernal worked deep into the count in each of his first four at-bats but the results were lacking after a strikeout, a pop-up and two groundouts. But Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said he had a feeling when his nine-hole hitter came again up with two outs and a runner on second with the game tied in the 11th inning.

"He's frustrated, and we're over in the dugout going, 'He's due. It's time,' " Van Horn said

Bernal's single scored Tyler Spoon, who slid around the tag on a close play at the plate, and Bernal came around to score on an error to give the Razorbacks their final run.

The victory gave Arkansas (35-21, 16-14 SEC) its first series sweep in conference play this season and earned it the No. 7 seed in the SEC Tournament. The Razorbacks play No. 10-seed Texas A&M in a single-elimination game schedule for 12:30 p.m. Tuesday in Hoover, Ala.

"The way we fought back the entire game, that's just something that carries over as a team," Bernal said. "When you see everybody in front of you fighting, that just helped me out a lot to get out there and compete."

Missouri (20-33, 6-24) led 5-1 going into the ninth inning. The Tigers sent starter Keaton Steele, who had thrown 109 pitches, back out to try and complete the game.

Eric Fisher greeted him with a single, and Spoon followed with a double. Bobby Wernes knocked in Fisher with a single and Alex Gosser -- playing in only his second college game after subbing in at catcher for Jake Wise -- singled in Spoon to make it 5-3.

After a Bernal groundout moved runners to second and third, leadoff hitter Clark Eagan brought both home with a single to tie the game.

Missouri left two runners on base in the bottom of the ninth and had runners on first and second with one out in the 10th before a double play ended the threat.

The Tigers left 15 runners on base, going only 4 of 18 with runners in scoring position.

"We never feel like we're going to lose a game," Spoon said. "Five-one in the ninth, no big deal. Whenever you can come back, it's always a big momentum builder."

Missouri took a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning thanks to an RBI single by Dillon Everett and a two-run double from Eric Anderson, who came around to score on a wild pitch.

Arkansas relievers Colin Poche (four) and Zach Jackson (one) combined to throw five wild pitches during the inning after coming on for starter Dominic Taccolini, who held Missouri hitless over the first three innings but also put runners on base with a walk and two hit batsmen.

"We had a bad inning," Van Horn said. "It wasn't pretty at all. We've been coming back the last couple weeks. This year's team seems to be getting better, a little more confident."

Fisher scored on a fielding error to cut Missouri's lead to 4-1 in the seventh, but the Tigers got one back on Dylan Kelly's RBI single in the eighth before Arkansas' bats tied it and Bernal's hit won it against Missouri reliever Andrew Schwaab (1-1).

Razorbacks relievers Jackson, Michael Gunn, Jacob Stone and Landon Simpson (1-1) held the Tigers to 1 run on 7 hits over the final 7 1/3 innings.

Sports on 05/18/2014