College Baseball:

Four runs in 8th save Razorbacks in North Little Rock

By: Tim Cooper
Published: Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Arkansas shortstop Jax Biggers tags out Grambling State baserunner Kristian Franklin during a game Tuesday, April 10, 2018, at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock.
Arkansas shortstop Jax Biggers tags out Grambling State baserunner Kristian Franklin during a game Tuesday, April 10, 2018, at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock.

Grambling State threw almost everything and everyone in an attempt to defeat the No. 3 Arkansas Razorbacks on Tuesday night. It almost worked.

Carson Shaddy scored from first on Eric Cole's line-drive single to right field to cap a four-run eighth inning in the Razorbacks' 7-6 victory in front of 8,470 relieved fans at Dickey-Stephens Park.

Taking advantage of Nick Wheeler's bobble in right field, Shaddy never stopped running once he saw third-base coach Nate Thompson wave him toward the plate. Shaddy's head-first slide got under the glove of Drexler Macaay for the game-winner.

"I told myself right before [Cole] hit it that if he gets a hold of one, I just needed to take off, run as fast as I can and let coach Thompson decide," Shaddy said. "When I got close to third, [Thompson] was still waving his arms, so I kicked it into high gear and sold out to dive head first into home plate."

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (25-9) won its sixth consecutive game and improved to 8-1 in North Little Rock. Jackson Rutledge (3-0), the third Arkansas pitcher, picked up the victory. Sophomore Matt Cronin worked a perfect ninth inning to pick up his seventh save. Starter Caleb Bolden struck out 6, gave up 4 hits and walked 2 in 5 innings.

The Tigers rallied for four runs in the top half of the eighth inning to take a 6-3 lead, but senior right-hander Raul Baduel (2-2) -- the seventh of the Tigers' eight pitchers -- failed to retire any of the five batters he faced, opening the door for what had been a befuddled Razorbacks' offense.

Grambling (16-17) came into Tuesday's contest with a team ERA of 7.12 and had given up at least eight runs in its past five games, but the Tigers' use of quantity almost turned into unexpected quality.

Grambling starter Elijah Saunders threw two scoreless innings. The Tigers then used seven more pitchers, none going more than one inning.

"I didn't think [Grambling] would come back with all of their weekend guys," Razorbacks Coach Dave Van Horn said. "I knew who they were going to start. He had been their Tuesday starter. They went only two innings with him, and that surprised me because we hadn't scored."

The Tigers held the Razorbacks to five hits through the first six innings.

"It's always tough when they're bringing in new pitchers because they're all different guys and they're all going to be good at the Division I level," Cole said. "It takes some adjustment period, but this is a good offense and we're going to figure out how to get hits at one point or the other."

Arkansas trailed 1-0 after one and 2-1 after six. The Razorbacks grabbed a short-lived 3-2 lead, scoring runs on a wild pitch and an error in the seventh inning.

Grambling's four-run eighth inning was highlighted by Macaay's two-out, two-run double.

Dominic Fletcher, who led the Razorbacks with three hits, led off the bottom half of the eighth with a double. Jared Gates drove in Fletcher with a single, and freshman Casey Martin followed with an infield single. Shaddy drew a walk to load the bases.

Ryan Evans, Grambling's final pitcher, gave up a sacrifice fly to Jax Biggers to pull Arkansas to within 6-5. Cole followed with his single to right that scored Martin from third and Shaddy from first.

Cole had been 0 for 3 prior to getting the eighth-inning single.

"Carson is one of the better baserunners on the team," Cole said. "I knew he wasn't going to stop no matter what, especially with two outs. As soon as [Wheeler] bobbled it, I knew Carson had it."

"I told our guys in the eighth inning that we hadn't had our big inning yet," Van Horn said. "We showed some confidence and we felt like we could do it.

"We got the big hit by Cole and the bobble in the outfield. Carson really hustled, and it was a good job by coach Thompson to send him and put a little pressure on [Grambling]."

Sports on 04/11/2018

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