Murphy yields bunt single in 1-hitter

By: Tim Cooper
Published: Thursday, April 20, 2017
Arkansas pitcher Kacey Murphy throws during a game against Memphis on Wednesday, April 19, 2017, at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock.
Arkansas pitcher Kacey Murphy throws during a game against Memphis on Wednesday, April 19, 2017, at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock.

— Kacey Murphy has turned into a midweek star for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

That star got only brighter Wednesday night.

Murphy, a sophomore left-hander from Rogers, limited Memphis to a seventh-inning bunt single as the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, won 2-0 over the Tigers in front of 8,543 fans at Dickey-Stephens Park.

“You never really expect something like that,” Murphy said. “You just go out and throw as many innings as you can to save some arms for the weekend. Just execute one pitch at a time.”

A night after Arkansas and Memphis combined for 23 runs and 23 hits in Fayetteville, the two teams managed only seven hits Wednesday night. Junior first baseman Chad Spanberger slugged his ninth home run — a two-run blast over the right-field fence in the fifth inning— to account for the game’s only runs.

Murphy (4-0) struck out 7 and walked 1 in 7 innings. He threw 91 pitches before senior Jake Alberius entered in the top of the eighth. Murphy made his sixth start in midweek games and lowered his ERA to 2.70. He has allowed no more than three runs in any of his last eight appearances.

“He’s been throwing really well lately,” said catcher Alex Gosser, a senior from North Little Rock. “I’m back there calling pitches and he’s hitting leather every time.”

“He’s just filling up the zone,” Spanberger said. “He’s throwing strikes and getting up 0-2 on almost every batter. … He kept pounding the zone and he had them off-balanced.”

Arkansas (31-8) extended its winning streak to seven games and improved to 25-13-1 all-time against Memphis (21-17).

Murphy retired the first 11 batters before giving up a four-pitch walk to right fielder Chris Carrier in the fourth inning. Carrier also broke up the no-hitter when he laid down a one-out bunt in the seventh inning. Carrier beat the throw from third baseman Jared Gates by a step.

“That’s kinda bush [league],” Spanberger said. “But it didn’t matter.”

“Memphis was just competing,” Arkansas Manager Dave Van Horn said. “They’re trying to get a runner on and get the tying run to the plate. I’m not saying I would have done it, but he did it and it was a great bunt. They could have called him out. It was awfully close.”

Alberius, who played high school for Little Rock Christian, was the winning pitcher in last season’s game at Dickey-Stephens. Alberius threw only 14 pitches in two perfect innings for his second save.

“We wanted him to pitch tonight, obviously,” Van Horn said. “We’ve started him on the weekends during conference. We’ve used him out of the pen. He’s kinda like our wild card. We use him to do a little bit of everything. He was told tonight to be ready to roll. He was going to be the first guy out of the pen.”

Memphis starter Alex Hicks (4-4) allowed six hits in six innings. He struck out six, walked none and hit a batter.

The Razorbacks banged out four hits in the first three innings but had no runner advance past second base. That all changed in the fifth inning.

Ninth-place batter Jax Biggers lined the first pitch of the fifth into right field. After senior Jake Arledge flew out to the warning track in right field, Spanberger belted a one-ball, two-strike pitch over the right-field wall.

“[Memphis] had been throwing inside to me all day yesterday and tonight,” Spanberger said. “They had been getting me, but [Hicks] left one over the plate for me and was able to put a pretty good swing on it. … This park, the ball doesn’t really fly very well, but it was enough.”

“I think they tried to sneak a fastball in on him” Van Horn said of the pitch to Spanberger. “It was hard to tell between the fastball and change-up late. … We started the runner on the play and [Spanberger] hammered it. That was a big relief because you don’t want to waste a good pitching performance.”

Up next

ARKANSAS AT AUBURN

WHEN 6 p.m. Central Friday WHERE Plainsman Park, Auburn, Ala. RECORDS Arkansas 31-8; Auburn 28-11 RADIO Razorback Sports Network. Not all games will be carried by all affiliates. Check local listings. INTERNET SEC Network-Plus

Sports on 04/20/2017

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