Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and Biletnikoff Award.
Fletcher comes through at the right times for Arkansas
Arkansas center fielder Dominic Fletcher heads to third after hitting a three-run triple against Memphis Tuesday, April 18, 2017, during the third inning at Baum Stadium.
FAYETTEVILLE Dominic Fletcher just kept swinging Tuesday.
The Arkansas freshman center fielder had key hits in three big innings as the No. 14 Razorbacks beat Memphis 16-7 in front of 3,155 at Baum Stadium. The teams are scheduled to play again Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock.
Fletcher went 3-for-5 with 4 RBI and 3 runs scored, and finished a home run shy of hitting for the cycle. He gave the Razorbacks (30-8) the lead in two separate innings, and had the hit that sparked a three-run second that tied the game.
No. 14 ARKANSAS VS MEMPHIS
WHEN 6:30 p.m.
WHERE Dickey-Stephens Park, North Little Rock
RADIO Razorbacks Sports Network statewide network. Not all games will be carried by all affiliates. Check local listings.
RECORDS Arkansas 30-8. Memphis 21-16.
PITCHING MATCHUP Memphis: RHP Alex Hicks (4-3, 4.53 ERA). Arkansas: LHP Kacey Murphy (3-0, 3.66 ERA).
A limited number of general admission tickets remain through the Arkansas Travelers box office for tonight’s game at Dickey-Stephens Park, but all reserved tickets have been sold. The Razorbacks are playing in North Little Rock for the eighth consecutive season and are 6-1 all-time at the ballpark. … Chad Spanberger extended his hit streak to 11 games with a first-inning single. … Arkansas left fielder Luke Bonfield reached base on a catcher’s interference in the first and eighth innings - the fifth and sixth times he has done so this season.
"Any time you're in the box with runners in scoring position, you're just trying to get the job done for the team," Fletcher said. "I just happened to be lucky enough to get those hits in."
Fletcher's RBI single in the fifth inning gave the Razorbacks an 8-7 lead. It scored Carson Shaddy, who hit a leadoff triple in the inning.
The hit was part of a four-run fifth for Arkansas to answer Memphis' four runs off sophomore reliever Jake Reindl in the top of the inning. The Tigers (21-16) tied the game 7-7 on Zach Schritenthal's three-run double and also had a leadoff home run in the inning from Tyler Webb.
"We basically just erased the inning they had," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "We swung the momentum back over to us and then it seemed like after that our pitchers settled in and did a nice job."
Arkansas had five consecutive batters reach with two outs in the bottom of the fifth, including RBI hits from Chad Spanberger and Luke Bonfield. The inning ended when Bonfield tried to score from second on a Jared Gates single, but was thrown out at the plate by left fielder Colton Neel.
"I feel like our team does a really good job responding to big innings, when other teams put up runs on us," Bonfield said. "You can take a look at a lot of our games...where our team is saying, 'All right, they scored on us first but we can relax, do our job and get to work.'"
Fletcher also had a three-run triple in the third inning to give the Razorbacks a 6-3 lead, and his double in the second helped Arkansas overcome a 3-0 deficit. All of Fletcher's hits came with one out in the inning.
The triple came during a seven-pitch at-bat in which Fletcher fouled off the first six pitches from Memphis starter Jonathan Bowlan. Arkansas had two doubles for the second consecutive Tuesday, having also done so last week at Missouri State.
The Razorbacks had 15 hits against Memphis. Arkansas has at least 11 hits in its past five games.
"I just think some guys are feeling it pretty good," Van Horn said. "They just feed off each other confidence-wise.
"We have a good lineup that complements each other. They know that probably to stay in the lineup they've got to produce and they've been doing a great job."
Arkansas freshman relievers Matt Cronin, Evan Lee and Angus Denton threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings to end the game. Cronin earned his second win with a 1 1/3-inning performance.
Memphis took a 3-0 lead against Arkansas starter Barrett Loseke in the first inning. Alec Trela's two-out hit single extended the inning and Andy Bowman followed with a three-run home run.
Van Horn said earlier in the week that Loseke was auditioning for the No. 3 weekend starter role, but he allowed 3 hits and walked 3 in 3-plus innings.
"He was just OK," Van Horn said. "It was a command thing and he just had trouble getting ahead of hitters. It seemed like he was always working from behind.
"(Sunday) will probably be TBA the rest of the year, unfortunately. Maybe somebody will step up and be the guy, but as of right now I think that's what we're going to do."
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