Hogs' freshman phenoms deliver again

By: Matt Jones
Published: Sunday, June 17, 2018
Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad hits an RBI single during the first inning of a College World Series game against Texas on Sunday, June 17, 2018, in Omaha, Neb.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad hits an RBI single during the first inning of a College World Series game against Texas on Sunday, June 17, 2018, in Omaha, Neb.

— The stage wasn't too big for Arkansas' Freshman All-Americans on Sunday.

Outfielder Heston Kjerstad and third baseman Casey Martin combined to reach base seven times and drive in four runs during the Razorbacks' 11-5 win over Texas at the College World Series.

Batting second, Martin was 2-for-4 with an RBI, a walk and a run scored. Batting third, Kjerstad went 3-for-5 with 3 RBI and 3 runs scored. Kjerstad also reached on a fielder's choice in the fifth inning when he beat out an errant throw that would have completed an inning-ending double play.

Designated hitter Luke Bonfield followed with a two-run, two-out home run in the next at-bat to give Arkansas a 3-2 lead and the Razorbacks never trailed again.

"The way they go about themselves is just special," Bonfield said of Martin and Kjerstad, who were voted Freshman All-Americans by National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association last week. "They don't act like freshmen once they get on the field. They're very respectful to the upperclassmen, which you don't really see a lot with guys that are that good as freshmen. They're never scared. It's something I've never seen here, and it's pretty cool."

Kjerstad singled in the first inning to score Eric Cole, who reached with a leadoff double, and give Arkansas a 1-0 lead. He doubled in his next at-bat in the third inning and had a two-run single in the sixth to put the Razorbacks ahead 8-2.

"All day he was just a force at the plate; tough out," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "He fouled off a lot of pitches."

Following a 2-hour, 49-minute weather delay in the sixth inning, Martin and Kjerstad each had RBI hits with the bases loaded during a span of five pitches.

Martin hit an RBI single into left field on the first pitch after the restart, and Kjerstad hit a two-run single into left field four pitches later. Their hits sparked an eight-run inning that gave Arkansas an 11-2 lead.

"I was going to take, but I decided not to at the last second. I don't know why," Martin said. "I just happened to get a lucky hit - one of those bloopers because they were playing so deep. I was actually thinking in my head before I went up to bat, 'Man, it would be nice to get a blooper or something right here to help us score some runs.'"

The freshmen improved their team-best batting averages to a matching .346 with their performances Sunday. Kjerstad also leads the team with 64 runs and 57 RBI.

"There are no two freshmen in the country who are as good as them," second baseman Carson Shaddy said. "Especially after that rain delay what they did, that's incredible. I think me and (pitching coach Wes) Johnson were just kind of in awe of them after they got those hits and were just like, 'Golly, those kids are something special.' They're incredible. I'm really proud of them."

Martin made a highlight-reel play in the field for the second out of the second inning. With a runner on first base, he dove to his right to stop a hard-hit ball by Jake McKenzie and got quickly to his feet to make a throw that hopped to first baseman Jared Gates for an out.

The play was similar to a key play Martin made during the final game of the Razorbacks' super regional against South Carolina six days earlier.

"He made that nice play, got up and threw the ball real accurate, threw it across the grass a little bit, but it was a perfect throw," Van Horn said. "And who knows, but it might have saved a really big inning there. He's been playing outstanding defense, making all kids of plays."

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