Long time coming: Hogs snag Aggies’ bragging rights after 44 years

By: Bob Holt
Published: May 14, 2018 at 4:30 a.m. - Updated: May 14, 2018 at 1:13 p.m.
Luke Bonfield rips a home run in the third inning against Texas A&M on Sunday at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville. Bonfield drove in four runs as Arkansas won 6-3 to sweep the series.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
Luke Bonfield rips a home run in the third inning against Texas A&M on Sunday at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville. Bonfield drove in four runs as Arkansas won 6-3 to sweep the series.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Arkansas Razorbacks finally lead the all-time baseball series against Texas A&M.

It only took 44 years, 83 games and two conferences.

The No. 6 Razorbacks beat the No. 20 Aggies 6-3 on Sunday at Baum Stadium before an announced crowd of 6,758 to give the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville a three-game sweep and 42-41 lead in the all-time series.

It's the only time the Razorbacks (36-13, 17-10 SEC) have been ahead in the series going back to the teams' first meeting won by the Aggies 5-2 on March 22, 1974, in College Station, Texas, when both were in the Southwest Conference.

Texas A&M jumped out to a 14-1 series lead before the Razorbacks tied it 24-24 in 1988 by winning the opener of a four-game series, though the Aggies then won the next three games to regain their lead.

Dave Van Horn is 14-9 against Texas A&M as the Arkansas coach -- including 13-6 since both programs joined the SEC -- but said his predecessor with the Razorbacks, Norm DeBriyn, deserves the praise for turning around the series.

"You'd better give credit to Coach DeBriyn and what he did after Arkansas started off 1-14 against a powerhouse program like A&M," Van Horn said. "That's the way I look at it, though we have played pretty good against A&M the last few years."

Luke Bonfield hit a three-run home run -- after Casey Martin walked and Heston Kjerstad was hit by a pitch -- in the third inning off Stephen Kolek to give the Razorbacks a 4-0 lead.

Bonfield's seventh home run of the season went over the left-field fence and also cleared the bullpen and seats.

"Really good at-bat," Van Horn said. "He laid off some borderline pitches and then got the 3-1 fastball and did just what we hoped he'd do with it."

Bonfield said he was looking for a pitch inside.

"I was kind of saying, 'All right, if they try to come in, just get your hands out and put a good swing on it,' " he said. "I got that pitch and I didn't miss it."

Arkansas starter Isaiah Campbell (4-5) went 5 scoreless innings and held the Aggies to 5 hits without a walk and 7 strikeouts.

Campbell threw 72 pitches, but Van Horn said he and pitching coach Wes Johnson made the decision not to have him face the batting order a third time.

"Going into the game we had talked about we aren't going to leave him in too long," Van Horn said. "He wanted to stay in and I don't blame him. Competitors want to stay in."

It was Campbell's longest outing in his past three starts.

"I had really good command on my fastball to the knees, both sides of the plate," Campbell said. "The changeup worked really well getting hitters off balance, early in the count, late in the count, behind in the count. Those are the two pitches I really went with the whole game."

The Aggies loaded the bases in the sixth inning -- with runners reaching base against Cody Scroggins, Evan Lee and Jake Reindl -- but they scored just one run to make it 4-1 before Reindl got Cam Blake to ground into a double play.

Arkansas closer Matt Cronin -- pitching for the first time since April 20 at Mississippi State after recovering from mononucleosis -- went two innings. He came in with one out and two runners on base in the seventh inning and got a groundout and fly out to keep the Razorbacks' lead at three runs.

"Cronin didn't come into a clean inning," Van Horn said. "It was a little bit stressful, and he worked his way out of it. That was really good to see."

After retiring the Aggies in order in the eighth -- and at just 14 pitches to get five outs -- Cronin came back out for the ninth after Arkansas extended its lead to 6-1.

Cronin struck out Blake to start the ninth, but then walked George Janca and Allonte Wingate.

"Obviously, he just ran out of gas," Van Horn said. "I didn't want him to throw more than 30 pitches. But I guess he was probably done at 20 from what it looked like after those last two hitters."

Barrett Loseke came in for Cronin. After giving up a two-run single to Zach DeLoach, he retired Michael Helman on a groundout to end the game.

The Razorbacks improved to 29-3 in Baum Stadium, including 14-1 in SEC games. It's the most regular-season victories they've had at the stadium since it opened in 1996. The only SEC team to beat the Razorbacks in Baum Stadium was South Carolina, 3-2, on April 12.

"I don't care how good you are, winning 29 out of 32 games at home is amazing," Van Horn said. "And 14-1 at home in conference play? That's something else."

In addition to Texas A&M, other SEC teams the Razorbacks swept at home were Kentucky, Auburn and Alabama.

"I just think we're so comfortable here," said Bonfield, who gave Arkansas a 1-0 lead in the first inning with an RBI groundout. "We have a huge amount of support from the fans, and I think that's very intimidating to play against as an opponent."

Sports on 05/14/2018

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WHEN 6 p.m. Thursday WHERE Foley Field, Athens, Ga. RECORDS Arkansas 36-15, 17-10 SEC; Georgia 35-16, 16-11 SERIES Arkansas leads 33-21 RADIO Razorback Sports Network TELEVISION None INTERNET SEC Network-Plus SHORT HOPS By sweeping Texas A&M, the Razorbacks stayed in first place in the SEC West race by a game ahead of Ole Miss. … It’s the first three-game sweep for Arkansas against Texas A&M since the Aggies joined the SEC in 2013. … Arkansas’ actual attendance for 30 home dates — including three doubleheaders in Fayetteville and a game against Grambling State in North Little Rock — was 176,111. The paid attendance was 246,774.


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