Hogs top Wildcats in SEC opener

By: Matt Jones
Published: Friday, March 16, 2018
Arkansas outfielder Eric Cole hits a home run during a game against Kentucky on Friday, March 16, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas outfielder Eric Cole hits a home run during a game against Kentucky on Friday, March 16, 2018, in Fayetteville.

Arkansas 9, Kentucky 4 - Final

Matt Cronin worked a perfect ninth with two strikeouts and the Razorbacks won the SEC opener. Kentucky outhit Arkansas 12-11, but stranded 12.

Blaine Knight was the winning pitcher. Sean Hjelle was the loser. More coming soon at WholeHogSports.com.

Arkansas 9, Kentucky 4 - End 8th Inning

The Razorbacks loaded the bases with a hit, a hit by pitch and walk in the eighth. Casey Martin, who singled to leadoff, scored on a long sac fly by Heston Kjerstad to the warning track in left-center. The inning ended when Grant Koch popped up to the first baseman to strand two.

Matt Cronin will pitch the ninth for the Razorbacks.

Arkansas 8, Kentucky 4 - Middle 8th Inning

Kentucky's offense is too good to go down without a fight. The Wildcats just made the eighth tough on Matt Cronin, pushing across runs on a Troy Squries RBI single and Tristan Pompey RBI double. Kentucky stranded two when Luke Becker grounded out to Cronin.

The Wildcats have 12 hits, but have stranded 12 runners.

Arkansas 8, Kentucky 2 - End 7th Inning

Jax Biggers greeted the new Kentucky pitcher, Aaron McGeorge, with an RBI double to score Carson Shaddy from second. The Razorbacks came close to adding another run, but a well-hit looper by Eric Cole was caught on the run by Kentucky left fielder Tristan Pompey.

Matt Cronin will continue to pitch for Arkansas in the eighth.

Arkansas 7, Kentucky 2 - Bottom 7th Inning

The Razorbacks have made all the big swings tonight. Grant Koch's solo home run to leadoff the seventh was his second homer of the game. This is his first multi-home run game and he has tied a career high with 4 RBI.

Koch's homer landed in the seats behind the left field bullpen. Carson Shaddy followed with a double to left-center to force another Kentucky pitching change. The Wildcats are on their sixth pitcher tonight.

Arkansas is slightly outhitting Kentucky, 9-8.

Arkansas 6, Kentucky 2 - Middle 7th Inning

Matt Cronin just got Arkansas out of a jam in the seventh. He inherited runners on first and second after Jake Reindl allowed a walk and a single. Cronin struck out Kole Cottam and got T.J. Collett to fly out to the warning track in center field to end the inning.

Kentucky has stranded 10 base runners.

Arkansas 6, Kentucky 2 - End 6th Inning

UK's home run leaders, T. J. Collett and Luke Heyer, went down on a pop out and a grounder to open the inning. Both have eight homers. Ryan Johnson singled to left. Trey Dawson walked. Troy Squires bounced out to Carson Shaddy to end the inning.

Right-hander Carson Coleman relieved for the Wildcats. The Hogs went 1-2-3 for the first time on the night.

Arkansas 6, Kentucky 2 - End 5th Inning

The Wildcats added a run in the fifth. Ryan Johnson popped to deep right center for the first out. Trey Dawson blistered a liner that Heston Kjerstad snared in left for the second out. Troy Squires singled to center. Dominic Fletcher, trying to make a charging catch, misplayed the ball into an error. Squires ended up on second. Ben Aklinski walked, the first given up by Blaine Knight. Tristan Pompey's bouncer was stabbed by third baseman Casey Martin near the line, but it bounced away and the throw was late to first to load the bases. That was Knight's 90th pitch and ended his night. Reliever Jake Reindl walked Luke Becker to force in a run. Kole Cottam fanned to end the threat.

With UK turning to lefty reliever Mason Hazelwood, the Hogs answered on Grant Koch's towering two-run homer to left that landed just short of the cooking grills deep in the Hog Pen. The left fielder did not move. Heston Kjerstand led off the inning on an infield single.

Arkansas 4, Kentucky 1 - End 4th Inning

Luke Becker opened the UK fourth with a single through the right side. Jax Biggers snared Kole Cottam's bouncer up the middle at the same time he hit the corner of the bag and flipped to first for a double play. T.J. Collett singled just over the outstretched glove of Biggers. Luke Heyer, with Knight hitting 93 on the radar gun, was called out on strikes to end the inning.

Biggers hit a fly to right that the outfielder backed up to the warning track only to have it fall in front of him for a double. Eric Cole hit a towering fly that was hauled in against the wall in right center. Biggers tagged and moved to third. UK starter Sean Hjelle was lifted for reliever Alex Maley to face Casey Martin. First pitch swinging, Martin bounced out to the third baseman, playing tight. Biggers, going on contact, was easily out at the plate. That backfired because Luke Bonfield lined the next pitch to right for a single. Dominic Fletcher bounced out to the pitcher to end the inning.

Arkansas 4, Kentucky 1 - End 3rd Inning

The Wildcats had a one-out single from Troy Squires. Ben Aklinski lined a ball off Blaine Knight's left ankle, then was out when first baseman Jordan McFarland scooped and was waiting in the base path for Aklinski. Aklinski dodged, but was called out for being out of the base path. Squires advanced to second. Knight went to the dugout for medical attention, then was allowed to test his leg with a few pitches to catcher Grant Koch. Tristan Pompey was out swinging (on an appeal to third base) to end the frame.

The Hogs scored one run on three walks and a hit batsman. Casey Martin walked on a 3-2 pitch that almost clipped his chin and Bonfield followed with another walk. Dominic Fletcher fanned. Both runners moved up on McFarland's bouncer to third. Heston Kjerstad was hit (for the 10th time this season) to load the bases. Grant Koch walked to bring in one run. Carson Shaddy fanned swinging to end the threat.

Arkansas 3, Kentucky 1 - End 2nd Inning

Kentucky got a run back on Kole Cottam's solo home run to straightaway center. The Wildcats are one of the nation's top home run teams and are putting a lot of big swings on Blaine Knight. Lots of loud outs.

Jax Biggers reached on a 1-out walk, but was stranded with Cole went down swinging to end the 2nd.

Arkansas 3, Kentucky 0 - End 1st Inning

A standing ovation from this big crowd after the Razorbacks scored three on Sean Hjelle in the first. It nearly was four.

Hjelle's second wild pitch allowed Jordan McFarland to advance to second and the inning ended when Heston Kjerstad's liner to center was caught on a dive by center fielder Ben Aklinkski.

Arkansas 3, Kentucky 0 - Bottom 1st Inning

Give Arkansas two more runs after a long RBI double to right by Dominic Fletcher and an RBI single by Jordan McFarland, both with two outs. Luke Bonfield walked and scored on Fletcher's hit. Fletcher scored from third after a wild pitch and McFarland's hit.

Fletcher is beginning to look like he did last season. He has had a key hit in three consecutive games.

McFarland is really seeing the ball well. He has an RBI hit in four straight games.

Arkansas 1, Kentucky 0 - Bottom 1st Inning

Eric Cole robbed the Kentucky homer in the top of the inning, then hit a no-doubter to left-center with one out in the bottom of the inning to give the Razorbacks the lead. Cole was batting from the left side against Kentucky's 6-11 right-hander, Sean Hjelle.

That is Cole's fifth home run of the season and gives him 14 RBI.

Arkansas 0, Kentucky 0 - Middle 1st Inning

Eric Cole robbed a home run on the first pitch of the game. Troy Squires sent a shot to right field, but Cole jumped up and brought the ball back from over the fence.

Kentucky had a base runner after Blaine Knight hit Tristan Pompey with a pitch with two outs, but the inning ended when Luke Becker flied out to deep center field.

Pregame

It is a gorgeous evening in Fayetteville. The temperatures are the mid 70s and the sun in shining about 10 minutes before first pitch. The wind is blowing out of the south, which should carry some balls hit to left field.

This should be an interesting game. Both teams will throw top pitchers in Blaine Knight and Sean Hjelle, but both teams have offenses that rank in the top 10 nationally in runs scored.

Arkansas is going with its routine starting lineup. Casey Martin is batting third and enters the game on a 10-game hit streak. He has hit home runs in three straight games.

The Razorbacks are in their white tops and pants, and red hats. Kentucky is wearing gray tops and pants, and blue caps.

The umpire crew tonight is Mark Chapman behind home plate, Ray Gregson at first base, Eddie Newsom at second and Jason Millsap at third.

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