'Mature' response: Noland bounces back to forge Razorbacks' sweep

By: Bob Holt
Published: Sunday, April 21, 2019
Arkansas pitcher Connor Noland throws during a game against Mississippi State on Saturday, April 20, 2019, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas pitcher Connor Noland throws during a game against Mississippi State on Saturday, April 20, 2019, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- A week after University of Arkansas pitcher Connor Noland couldn't get an out at Vanderbilt, he shut down No. 2 Mississippi State on Saturday at Baum-Walker Stadium.

Noland, a freshman right-hander from Greenwood, went a season-long 7 2/3 innings and got plenty of run support as the No. 10 Razorbacks beat the Bulldogs 10-2 to complete a three-game sweep.

"Today the story was Connor Noland," Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. "I mean, he was just lights outs."

Noland, using mostly a mixture of fastballs and sliders, held the Bulldogs scoreless on four hits without a walk while striking out five. He got a standing ovation from the announced crowd of 8,823 when Van Horn took him out after he struck out Marshall Gilbert.

"It was a great feeling," Noland said. "Definitely a special moment."

Noland threw 89 pitches, including 60 strikes. He retired the last six batters he faced, but Van Horn said he thought with the pitch count and a big lead, it was the right time to take out Noland.

"I was fired up for him," said Van Horn, who ran to the mound. "I didn't want him to throw anymore pitches, honestly, and I wanted him to get a little recognition for having such a great outing in such a clutch game for us."

On the previous Saturday, Noland faced five batters at Vanderbilt and allowed 5 runs, 4 hits and 1 walk as the Commodores beat the Razorbacks 12-2.

"Obviously, last week didn't go as planned," Noland said. "It's baseball and that stuff happens. To bounce back this week, it feels really good to get some confidence and momentum for myself."

Saturday was the second victory this week for Noland (2-2), who lowered his ERA from 5.60 to 4.60 with Saturday's outing. He also was credited with the victory after going two scoreless innings when he started on Tuesday night when the Razorbacks beat the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff 16-4.

"He took it like a man," Van Horn said of Noland making his first midweek start. "He didn't run from it and feel like he'd been demoted. He just said, 'OK, this is what I've got to do.'

"We kept telling him, 'This is for you to get better and get some confidence,' and he did it."

Noland said the UAPB game was a big plus.

"It was good to get out there and just get on the mound again," he said. "I went out there with the mindset that I was just going to dominate them and get back on my feet. It went well, and I think that really led up to [Saturday's performance]."

Arkansas (30-10, 12-6 SEC) sent 12 batters to the plate in the sixth inning and scored eight runs to push its lead from 1-0 to 9-0.

Jacob Nesbit hit a three-run home run off reliever Trysten Barlow to highlight the inning, and Casey Martin had two hits.

"It's really cool to hand it off to the next guy," Nesbit said. "We got one out, and then we couldn't get out from that point."

After Martin hit a leadoff double and Matt Goodheart followed with a walk, Mississippi State Coach Chris Lemonis replaced starter J.T. Ginn with Barlow.

After a groundout by Dominic Fletcher advanced the runners, Barlow walked Kenley to load the bases before hitting Jordan McFarland to bring in a run. Third baseman Gunner Halter's error on a Casey Opitz grounder allowed two runs to score, and Nesbit followed with his second home run of the season for a 7-0 edge.

"I was just looking for a pitch I could handle," Nesbit said. "He threw me a fastball on the first pitch of the at-bat that kind of sawed off my hands a little bit. He threw me a fastball again on the next pitch, and I didn't miss it that time."

Van Horn said Nesbit did a good job of timing his swing.

"He got one in his wheelhouse, and he was connected when he hit it," Van Horn said. "Everything was lined up perfectly and it jumped off his bat.

"That was the swing that put us over the top."

Mississippi State got runners on second and third base in the first inning against Noland after he gave up singles to Jordan Westburg and Tanner Allen and threw a wild pitch, but he stranded them by striking out Elijah MacNamee and retiring Justin Foscue.

"I thought we got to [Noland] early," Lemonis said. "But he got off the hook and the next thing, he settled in and pitched well."

The Bulldogs (32-9, 10-8) got just one runner past first base against Noland after the first inning.

"Honestly, I think I could have closed the game if I needed to," Noland said. "I had some juice left to go."

Van Horn credited Noland's mental toughness for allowing him to bounce back from his start last week at Vanderbilt.

"I've said all along that he's mature for being a freshman in college," Van Horn said. "His mental makeup is advanced over some kids his age -- maybe a lot -- that we coach.

"Physically, he's already there. Now he just needs experience. But you did see the mature part of him come out this whole week, and he got rewarded for it."

Up next

NORTHWESTERN (LA.) STATE

AT NO. 10 ARKANSAS

WHEN 6:30 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE Baum-Walker Stadium, Fayetteville

RECORDS Arkansas 30-10; Northwestern State 23-15

STARTING PITCHERS TBA

RADIO Razorback Sports Network

TELEVISION None

INTERNET SEC Network-Plus

SHORT HOPS Sophomore outfielder Heston Kjerstad had started all 108 games for Arkansas the past two seasons before being suspended Saturday after he was ejected Friday night for arguing a called third strike with home plate umpire John Brammer. … Sophomore Matt Goodheart made his first start in right field in place of Kjerstad. Goodheart previously had two starts in left field and 25 starts at DH this season. … Goodheart had a single in the first inning to extend his hitting streak to 13 games. … Jordan McFarland started at DH in Goodheart’s spot and went 2 for 3 with 1 RBI and 1 run scored. … Mississippi State center fielder Kris Mangum’s hitting streak ended at 20 games. He was 0 for 4. … The Razorbacks improved to 21-4 at home. … The home team has won 12 consecutive games in the Arkansas-Mississippi State series.

THE WEEK AHEAD

TODAY Off

MONDAY Off

TUESDAY vs. NW (La.) State, 6:30 p.m.

WEDNESDAY vs. NW (La.) State, 3 p.m.

THURSDAY Off

FRIDAY vs. Tennessee*, 6:30 p.m.

SATURDAY vs. Tennessee*, 6:30 p.m.

*SEC game

Sports on 04/21/2019

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