Kjerstad comes up with Hogs' winner

By: Bob Holt
Published: Monday, February 18, 2019
Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad is doused with water by catcher Casey Opitz after Kjerstad hit the game-winning single in the Razorbacks' 3-2 win over Eastern Illinois on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, in Fayetteville.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad is doused with water by catcher Casey Opitz after Kjerstad hit the game-winning single in the Razorbacks' 3-2 win over Eastern Illinois on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas baseball team found itself in a pitchers' duel against Eastern Illinois on Sunday after combining to score 27 runs in sweeping a doubleheader from the Panthers to open the season on Saturday.

"Kind of what I expected, to be honest with you," Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said after the No. 12-ranked Razorbacks won 3-2 at Baum-Walker Stadium before an announced crowd of 2,332 on a chilly afternoon. "Whenever you go out and score a bunch of runs, it just seems like this is what you get in game three.

"They challenged us a little bit. I felt it was good for us to play a game like that."

Heston Kjerstad hit a one-out, game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth inning that scored Curtis Washington from second base after EIU had scored twice in eighth inning to tie the game 2-2.

"They put those two runs on the board, but all of us in the dugout were talking about, 'Someone's going to get this done for us,' " Kjerstad said. "Didn't matter who, but we knew someone was going to step up in the end."

Kjerstad got his chance when Casey Martin -- his fellow sophomore and preseason All-American -- was intentionally walked ahead of him after Washington led off the ninth with a single and went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jacob Nesbit.

"I was excited to go up and get another at-bat on the day," said Kjerstad, who was 0 for 4 before the hit. "Have a chance to get another run across the board to win it for us."

Kjerstad had struck out swinging on a 1-2 pitch from Alex Stevenson to end the seventh inning with Washington on third base after the Razorbacks took a 2-0 lead on Martin's squeeze bunt that scored Jack Kenley.

"He swung at three balls out of the zone as far as I know -- two for sure that he reached for that were down and away," Van Horn said. "He was pressing trying to get a hit too bad."

In the ninth Kjerstad lined a 1-0 fastball from from Blake Malatestinic (0-1) into right-center field.

"They tried to throw something off speed to him," Van Horn said. "It was about knee high and he didn't try to hit it out of the park. He just tried to hit a line drive through the middle and that's exactly what he did.

"So that was more of a mature at-bat. That was good to see."

Kjerstad said he had a bad at-bat in the seventh.

"I flushed it," he said. "I just went up there [in the ninth] clear with an easy approach of just trying to hit something hard up the middle to score [Washington]."

Arkansas closer Matt Cronin (1-0) retired the Panthers in order in the top of the ninth on three flyouts.

EIU's runs in the eighth inning came on back-to-back doubles by Trey Sweeney and Jimmy Govern -- against Patrick Wickland and Zebulon Vermillion -- and Hunter Morris' RBI single off Cronin.

"They just kept hanging with us and hanging with us," Van Horn said. " Give them credit. They fight. They're an older team. Their whole team are juniors and seniors and they hung in there."

Arkansas junior pitcher Jacob Kostyshock made his first career start and threw five shutout innings. He allowed 3 hits and 2 walks with 3 strikeouts on 74 pitches.

"His stuff was pretty good," Van Horn said. "His breaking ball was good. They didn't hit him very hard. He could have cut his pitch count down a lot if he could have just wouldn't go so deep in counts, but I liked what I saw."

Washington, a freshman from West Memphis, pinch hit in the seventh inning for Jordan McFarland -- whose sacrifice fly in fourth scored Casey Opitz to give Arkansas a 1-0 lead -- after Kenley drew a leadoff walk.

With Arkansas lead 1-0, Van Horn put Washington in the game to bunt Kenley to second, but he drew a walk.

"He did a great job of not bunting at balls," Van Horn said. "That was outstanding."

Washington's walk helped set up a run after Nesbit put down a sacrifice bunt that advanced the runners to second and third.

In the ninth Washington singled to center field on 0-2 curveball from Malatestinic.

"Coach can call my name at any time, so I have to be ready at all times," Washington said. "So I was ready when the moment came and got the job done."

Van Horn said he considered pinch-hitting for Washington in the ninth, but decided to let him bat.

"He just competes, and he's not scared," Van Horn said. "He took a first-pitch fastball and the guy spins a breaking ball and it ends up over the plate. Then he throws another breaking ball and [Washington] singles to center and we were in business.

"I'm proud of him for handling the situation and competing."

Sports on 02/18/2019

Up Next


WHEN 9 p.m. Central, Thursday

WHERE Dedeaux Field, Los Angeles

RADIO Razorback Sports Network. Not all games will be carried by all affiliates. Check local listings.


INTERNET Pac-12.com/live.usc

RECORDS Arkansas 3-0; USC 2-1.

SHORT HOPS Arkansas senior first baseman Trevor Ezell, a graduate transfer from Southeast Missouri State, is 21 for 44 (.477) against Eastern Illinois after going 5 for 10 in the Razorbacks’ three-game, season-opening series. Eastern Illinois and SEMO are both in the Ohio Valley Conference and Ezell was 16 of 34 against the Panthers when he played for the Redhawks … Razorbacks sophomore right-fielder Heston Kjerstad’s ninth-inning RBI single against EIU on Sunday was his second game-winning hit at Arkansas. He also had a game-winner against Auburn last season … Arkansas freshman pitcher Patrick Wicklander struck out the side on 10 pitches in the sixth inning on Sunday when he made his first collegiate appearance.





THURSDAY at USC, 9 p.m.

FRIDAY at USC, 8 p.m.

SATURDAY at USC, 8 p.m.



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