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.
Anderson provides pop as Arkansas tops Liberty
Arkansas infielder Brian Anderson (1) tips his helmet to teammate Eric Fisher (29) after he hit a solo home run in the second inning against Liberty during an NCAA college baseball tournament regional game in Charlottesville, Va., Friday, May 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Brian Anderson homered and drove in two runs and Arkansas overcame a wild outing from Chris Oliver to defeat Liberty 3-2 on Friday in its opening-round game at the NCAA regional tournament at Davenport Field.
The Razorbacks (39-23) advanced to face regional host Virginia at 7 p.m. today. Liberty (41-17) will take on Bucknell in a 2 p.m. elimination game.
Oliver (9-4) flirted with disaster throughout his five innings, allowing 12 runners on 4 hits, 6 walks and 2 hit batters, but he bore down and came up with key strikeouts that prevented the Flames from mounting a big inning.
"We just didn't have timely hits in the first three innings, and I think that was the game," Liberty Coach Jim Toman said. "You could basically say he was effectively wild."
Michael Gunn threw three scoreless innings to keep Arkansas ahead by a run, and Jacob Stone stranded the tying run at third base in the ninth inning to notch his fourth save.
Anderson and Andrew Benintendi had two hits each to lead Arkansas' seven-hit attack.
Oliver retired the first two Liberty batters of the game, then ran into a stretch of wildness that lasted the next few innings and proved costly in the second.
Dalton Britt singled through the right side to open the second. Oliver hit Danny Grauer with a pitch, then walked Jake Kimble to load the bases. No. 9 batter Nick Lacik tossed aside his bat on Oliver's 3-1 pitch, thinking he had walked, but home plate umpire Mike Conlin called a strike and Lacik struck out on the next pitch.
Oliver drilled Ashton Perritt on the left arm with a fastball on his next pitch, forcing in the game's first run. Oliver rallied, striking out Will Shepherd and Ryan Seiz to minimize the damage.
"Chris didn't have command of his fastball tonight, but somehow he managed to get through that second inning with only one run," Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. "That saved us."
Oliver compared his inability to locate his fastball to his start at LSU on April 13.
"Tonight the curveball was probably my best pitch," Oliver said. "It got me out of the second inning and got me out of some other trouble."
The Razorbacks didn't trail for long. Anderson drove a Trey Lambert pitch just over the wall in right field for his seventh home run to make it 1-1 in the bottom of the second inning.
"It was kind of a momentum shifter," Anderson said. "By no means was I trying to hit a home run there. I just got an elevated fastball outside and put a good swing on it."
The score remained tied until the fourth, when Arkansas finally made Lambert work out of the stretch. Joe Serrano led off with an infield single to deep short and was on the move when Benintendi laced a shot to the spot just vacated by shortstop Dalton Britt for a hit-and-run single.
Anderson poked a single into left field to drive in Serrano and give Arkansas its first lead. Lambert induced a pop-up from Eric Fisher and walked Tyler Spoon intentionally before Bobby Wernes' chopper to short brought in Benintendi for a 3-1 lead.
Oliver was back in hot water to start the fifth, walking Alex Close and giving up a ringing double in the left-field corner to Andrew Yacyk.
Britt made it a one-run game with his sacrifice fly in foul ground in left field, and Oliver left it at 3-2 by retiring the next two batters.
The Flames left nine runners on base in five innings against Oliver and went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position.
Sports on 05/31/2014