Diamond Hogs manhandle No. 4 Kentucky, sweep series

By: Matt Jones
Published: March 17, 2018 at 5:52 p.m. - Updated: March 17, 2018 at 11:19 p.m.
Arkansas pitcher Isaiah Campbell throws a pitch during a game against Kentucky on Saturday, March 17, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas pitcher Isaiah Campbell throws a pitch during a game against Kentucky on Saturday, March 17, 2018, in Fayetteville.

— Arkansas delivered a dominant performance twice Saturday, hammering No. 4 Kentucky twice to sweep the SEC-opening series for both teams.

The No. 10 Razorbacks hammered the No. 4 Wildcats 14-2 in the first game of a doubleheader in front of 9,519 at Baum Stadium. Arkansas (16-4, 3-0 SEC) completed the sweep with a 16-9 win in the nightcap.

Every Arkansas starter had at least one hit in the opening-game rout. The Razorbacks outhit the Wildcats 19-5 and had five home runs - one apiece by Jax Biggers, Eric Cole, Luke Bonfield, Heston Kjerstad and pinch-hitter Zack Plunkett.

Cole and Bonfield each hit solo home runs in the first inning to give Arkansas a 2-0 lead. The Razorbacks scored 11 runs against Kentucky starter Justin Lewis, who took his second loss and saw his ERA spike from 4.07 to 6.91.

“Offensively, what can you say?" Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "We hit a lot of balls hard and we just kept pouring it on. We got some big hits….We elevated a lot of pitches and obviously hit the ball out of the park the last two days pretty good.

“We knew we were going to be in a fight with Kentucky, a team that was leading the SEC offensively in almost everything. We really stepped it up this weekend.”

Arkansas chased Lewis in the fourth after Carson Shaddy singled to score Kjerstad and Biggers followed with a home run into the right field bullpen. Biggers led the Razorbacks with 4 RBI.

The offensive showcase was complemented by sophomore pitcher Isaiah Campbell's best outing as a Razorback. Campbell allowed 1 run on 3 hits and struck out a career-high 8 in 8 innings to earn his second win.

It was a strong bounce back from consecutive disappointing outings for Campbell, who had Game 2 losses to Southern Cal and Kent State. Van Horn didn't decide on Campbell as the second game starter this weekend until after Friday's game.

"It was more motivation on my own part," Campbell said. "I haven't thrown well. I didn't have a great outing against Kent State and I wanted to come out there first weekend of SEC and prove what I can do. That's what I did.

"I had four pitches working for me - my changeup, my curveball and my cutter - but we went predominantly fastball and they just couldn't hit it."

Campbell didn't allow a Kentucky hit until Kole Cottam's solo home run to center field with one out in the fifth inning. The Wildcats tacked on another run with two outs in the ninth against Arkansas reliever Zebulon Vermillion.

Campbell's career-long eight innings included 108 pitches. He has lost 22 pounds since the fall, which he said has helped him with his endurance and velocity. His fastball was clocked at 94 mph.

"My (velocity) was there the whole game and I never felt tired," Campbell said. "I just felt like I was in the first inning (late in the game) and that was a really good thing to see."

The Razorbacks held Kentucky to six runs in the first two games. The Wildcats (14-6, 0-3) entered the series with the SEC lead in runs scored, batting average and home runs.

Arkansas won its first SEC series for the second consecutive season. The Razorbacks swept Mississippi State in the SEC opener last March at Baum.

Arkansas 16, Kentucky 9

Arkansas scored seven runs in the first inning en route to a second big win over Kentucky in one day.

Like in the first game, the Razorbacks had 19 hits and five home runs. Second baseman Carson Shaddy hit two opposite-field home runs and had 3 RBI. Luke Bonfield added a team-high 4 RBI with a 3-for-4 effort that included a solo home run in the fourth inning.

"It's probably the craziest thing I've been a part of here at the university, and probably throughout my whole baseball career," Bonfield said of the doubleheader sweep. "It was something pretty special."

Kentucky scored four runs against Arkansas starter Kole Ramage in the second inning to pull within 7-4, and pulled within 8-6 on Ben Aklinski's two-run home run in the top of the fifth.

But the Razorbacks responded with three runs in the bottom of the fifth and scored five more in the seventh when Shaddy and Casey Martin each homered.

Kacey Murphy battled through an illness to pitch 5 1/3 innings relief to earn his third win of the season. Murphy allowed 2 runs on 7 hits and struck out 5 after earning a win over Texas on Tuesday.

Kentucky recorded 14 hits in the finale. Aklinski led the Wildcats with three hits and 4 RBI.

Freshman starter Daniel Harper allowed 5 runs on 4 hits in a two-out start for Kentucky.

Discussion

Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.