Diamond Hogs ease past USC in Game 1

By: Matt Jones
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2019
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn speaks to pitching coach Matt Hobbs against Eastern Illinois Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, during the seventh inning at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn speaks to pitching coach Matt Hobbs against Eastern Illinois Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, during the seventh inning at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville.

Postgame

Arkansas is 4-0 following an easy-looking win at Southern Cal on Thursday night.

The No. 12 Razorbacks scored three runs in the second inning, two runs in the third and a run in the fourth to stake a 6-0 lead. The Trojans (2-2) scored their only runs during an erratic fourth inning for Arkansas pitchers Cody Scroggins and Patrick Wicklander, who combined to walk three and hit three.

Kole Ramage put out the fire in the fourth to strand the bases loaded, and USC never really threatened again. Both teams stranded eight runners, including three by Arkansas in the sixth.

Arkansas' pitching was the story of this game. Excluding the fourth, the Razorbacks' hurlers were really good and combined to strike out 14 USC hitters. The Trojans finished with four hits.

Until he ran into trouble in the fourth, Cody Scroggins looked electric. And at the back end, Matt Cronin looked every bit the part of an All-American by blowing fastball after fastball past USC hitters.

Cronin struck out all four batters he faced, all four swinging through his mid-90s fastball.

Arkansas also got a couple of great defensive plays from freshmen. Christian Franklin had a diving catch to begin a double play in the sixth, and Jacob Nesbit made a diving stop to keep a run from scoring in the eighth.

The Razorbacks put a base runner on in every inning while facing all left-handed pitching. Arkansas had eight hits, walked seven times and reached on two errors.

The teams are scheduled to play again at 8 p.m., Central on Friday. If Arkansas wins it will take a series from USC for the second consecutive year.

We will have much more from this game at WholeHogSports.com overnight. Also, be sure to check out our latest baseball podcast in which Joe Healy of Baseball America gives insight into USC and its heralded Friday starter, Kyle Hurt.

Arkansas 6, USC 3 - Final

After falling behind 1-0, Matt Cronin struck out leadoff hitter Matthew Acosta, who swung through three straight fastballs.

Cronin also fell behind Chase Bushor with a first-pitch ball. Bushor watched the next pitch go by for a strike, fouled off strike two and swung through the final pitch of the game.

Cronin threw mostly fastballs and struck out all four batters he faced. He earned the save and looked really impressive.

More coming soon at WholeHogSports.com.

Arkansas 6, USC 3 - Bottom 9th Inning

Trevor Halsema struck out swinging at a letter-high fastball away by Matt Cronin. There is one away and nobody on as the top of the order comes to the plate.

Arkansas 6, USC 3 - Middle 9th Inning

Trevor Ezell got a little too eager and might have cost Arkansas an insurance run. He singled to lead off the inning and stole second, his second steal of the game.

Ezell had a big lead off second and was picked off on a good move by the left-handed pitcher, Isaac Esqueda. It was the second out and the half inning ended when Matt Goodheart struck out swinging.

Ezell has reached base all five times tonight. He is 2-for-4 and has a walk, and reached twice on errors.

Matt Cronin will face USC's Nos. 9, 1 and 2 hitters in the ninth inning, beginning with a sophomore pinch hitter, Trevor Halsema, who did not play in USC's opening series.

Arkansas 6, USC 3 - End 8th Inning

Matt Cronin made quick work of Bart West, striking him out swinging at a 1-2 fastball. Both teams have stranded eight base runners tonight.

The Razorbacks' pitchers have combined for 11 strikeouts tonight. Starter Cody Scroggins had eight of those and Kole Ramage had two before Cronin's inning ender.

Arkansas will send Trevor Ezell, Dominic Fletcher and Matt Goodheart to the plate in the top of the ninth.

Arkansas 6, USC 3 - Bottom 8th Inning

Matt Cronin is coming into the game with two outs and a USC runner at second base.

Jacob Nesbit just made an outstanding defensive play at third base to save a run. Nesbit dove to his right to stop a hot shot by Emilio Rosas, then jumped to his feet and threw Rosas out at first. Rosas had a long at-bat, fouling off several 2-2 pitches from Zebulon Vermillion before getting the pitch he wanted.

CJ Stubbs doubled down the left field line with one out and he is the runner at second base. Stubbs has two of the Trojans' four hits.

Cronin would have faced Brady Shockey, a left-hander, but USC countered the move by bringing in a right-handed pinch hitter, Bart West, who walked three times last week.

Arkansas 6, USC 3 - Middle 8th Inning

USC center fielder Matthew Acosta robbed Casey Martin on a one-out extra-base hit with a diving catch into left field. Martin's flyout was sandwiched between a strikeout by Christian Franklin and a flyout by Heston Kjerstad.

That is Arkansas' fourth consecutive scoreless inning after putting at least one run on the board in the second, third and fourth innings.

Isaac Esqueda has pitched really well in relief for the Trojans, with 2 2/3 scoreless innings. The left-hander has allowed one hit and two walks.

Zebulon Vermillion, the Razorbacks' setup man is on to pitch the eighth. That means Matt Cronin likely is going to take the mound before this one is over.

Arkansas 6, USC 3 - End 7th Inning

Kole Ramage looks to be on cruise control. He has pitched around base runners in every inning since he entered in the fourth and has not allowed a run.

One one-out fielding error by shortstop Casey Martin - his third of the season - allowed Chase Bushor to reach, but the Trojans' Nos. 3 and 4 hitters both flied out to end the inning. Jamal O'Guinn's two-out line drive forced Arkansas center fielder Dominic Fletcher to the warning track.

The Razorbacks will get the top of the order back to the plate in the top of the eighth. It will be Arkansas' fifth time through the order.

Arkansas 6, USC 3 - Middle 7th Inning

Casey Opitz led off the sixth inning with a walk and was erased by Jack Kenley's fielder's choice. Then Jacob Nesbit hit in a double play to end the top of the inning.

The Razorbacks haven't been able to do much against the Trojans' bullpen. Arkansas has had a base runner every inning, but no runs since the fourth.

Opitz has reached in every plate appearance tonight. He has an RBI hit and two walks.

Arkansas 6, USC 3 - End 6th Inning

A great defensive sequence gave Kole Ramage a quick sixth inning after it looked like USC might have something going.

Emilio Rosas led off the inning with a single to left field. Brady Shockey made good contact in the next at-bat, but Arkansas left fielder Christian Franklin left his feet to make the out.

Rosas rounded second base and had to retreat to first on the catch. Arkansas successfully appealed that he did not touch second base coming back, however, for the second out. The inning ended on a grounder to Trevor Ezell at first.

Ramage has pitched well so far in relief. He has throw 2 1/3 scoreless innings after coming in to shut down the bases-loaded jam in the fourth.

Arkansas 6, USC 3 - Middle 6th Inning

The Razorbacks had the scenario they wanted, but they squandered a big chance to put a dent in the scoreboard in the sixth.

With the bases loaded, Dominic Fletcher popped up to the second baseman just off the dirt in shall center field, and Matt Goodheart struck out swinging an off-speed pitch well out of the zone to strand all three runner. Arkansas has stranded eight tonight.

It was a long half inning that began when Christian Franklin walked. He was erased on a fielder's choice to shortstop by Casey Martin.

After a pitching change, Heston Kjerstad singled to left field on a 3-2 pitch and Trevor Ezell took a close 3-2 pitch that just missed being the second out, but instead loaded the bases.

Arkansas 6, USC 3 - End 5th Inning

Jamal O'Guinn singled with one out, but Kole Ramage worked around him in the fifth. Ramage struck out the next batter, Brandon Perez, looking at a 0-2 breaking ball. The inning ended on a flyout to left field.

In the top of the inning, USC left-hander Austin Manning gave up a one-out single to Casey Opitz, who stole second base. He was stranded when Jacob Nesbit struck out looking at a 1-2 pitch.

The Razorbacks have stranded five. The Trojans have stranded six.

Arkansas 6, USC 3 - End 4th Inning

Kole Ramage dominated USC two-hole hitter Chase Bushor, striking him out in three pitches. Bushor chased Ramage's best pitch, a two-strike worm killer in the dirt. That is Ramage's go-to pitch with two outs.

USC stranded the bases loaded.

Arkansas 6, USC 3 - Bottom 4th Inning

USC's third hit batter of the inning has put the Trojans on the board. Patrick Wicklander fell behind 3-1, but showed good location for strike two and was one pitch from getting out of the inning.

After a foul ball, Wicklander hit Brady Shockey in the back to force home a run. Then he walked John Thomas and Matthew Acosta in consecutive at-bats to cut the lead in half. He had a wild pitch sprinkled in there.

Kole Ramage is on the mound trying to stop the bleeding for Arkansas, which can still be in control if it can get an out here. USC hasn't had a hit this inning. All of its base runners have reached on a hit by pitch or a walk.

Arkansas 6, USC 0 - Bottom 4th Inning

Cody Scroggins ran out of gas and loaded the bases with two outs. Patrick Wicklander, the dynamic freshman left-hander, will try to keep the shutout in place.

All three base runners reached on free passes. Scroggins hit two batters and issued a two-out walk on a full count.

Scroggins had been dynamic up until that inning. He finished the game with eight strikeouts and had given up only one free pass in his first three innings.

Because he was on a lower-than-normal pitch count, I assume he is in line to be the winner, but that will be a scoring decision to watch at the end of the game.

Arkansas 6, USC 0 - Middle 4th Inning

The Razorbacks just keep putting together solid innings at the plate. Jacob Nesbit walked in five pitches with one out, then advanced to third on a two-out double by Heston Kjerstad.

Nesbit scored on Trevor Ezell's bouncer to the shortstop, which was ruled an error. Ezell beat the throw at first base by a step.

Dominic Fletcher made good contact on a two-out hopper, but it went right to the defender in the hole and stranded Kjerstad at third base.

The Razorbacks are out-hitting the Trojans 5-1 and Arkansas has reached five other times, on four walks and two errors.

The Trojans also made a pitching change with left-hander Austin Manning replacing left-hander Quentin Longrie. Manning gave up an unearned run on a hit and a walk in one inning last week against Nebraska-Omaha.

Arkansas 5, USC 0 - End 3rd Inning

Cody Scroggins struck out two more in the third, giving him seven strikeouts tonight. He is really commanding all of his pitches. He has had strikeouts swinging at all of his pitches and various places in the zone - slider low and breaking inside, fastball high and away, etc.

This has been a good start for him. He had command issues in his final preseason outing and that might have been what kept him out of the rotation opening weekend. This performance might get him consideration for next weekend's series against Stony Brook.

Arkansas 5, USC 0 - Middle 3rd Inning

The Razorbacks are having a much better game against Quentin Longrie this year.

Trevor Ezell reached on an error, Dominic Fletcher went opposite field for a double and Matt Goodheart hti an RBI single to start the inning. Fletcher scored on a sacrifice fly by Casey Opitz.

I'm unsure what Longrie's pitch count is tonight, but I have a hard time believing he'll make it more than another inning or so.

Goodheart was thrown out trying to steal second base to end the inning.

Arkansas 3, USC 0 - End 2nd Inning

Cody Scroggins is having a solid start.

Scroggins struck out two more in the second inning to strand catcher CJ Stubbs at first base. Stubbs reached on a one-out single after he went low in the zone to make contact.

Scroggins has five strikeouts and his pitch count is now at 35. If he can continue to have efficient innings he might be able to go four innings for the Razorbacks.

Arkansas 3, USC 0 - Middle 2nd Inning

Casey Martin hit a three-run double on a 3-2 pitch with two outs, and the Razorbacks have taken a nice lead early on. Martin pulled the ball off the fence left field.

Martin was stranded when Heston Kjerstad grounded out to end the inning.

The Razorbacks did a lot of damage with two outs. Casey Opitz walked with one out but was erased when Jack Kenley hit into a fielder's choice at second base. But Jacob Nesbit and Christian Franklin followed with two-out walks - both on 3-2 counts - to load the bases for Martin.

Arkansas has forced Quentin Longrie to throw a lot of pitches. His pitch count already is at 47.

Arkansas 0, USC 0 - End 1st Inning

Cody Scroggins allowed a one-out walk to Chase Bushor after running the count full, but he bounced back with back-to-back strikeouts of Blake Sabol and Jamal O'Guinn, and finished the inning with three strikeouts.

Against Sabol, Scroggins was filthy with consecutive sliders that Sabol chased out of the zone. O'Guinn got ahead 2-0 with two outs, but Scroggins threw three consecutive strikes to end the inning.

Both teams have stranded one runner.

Arkansas 0, USC 0 - Middle 1st Inning

Trevor Ezell had a two-out single, but Dominic Fletcher, a Los Angeles native, struck out to strand him.

USC left-hander Quentin Longrie had two strikeouts in the inning.

Pregame

The Razorbacks and Trojans are scheduled to start at 9 p.m., Central.

It is a chilly night in Southern California and there is a slight chance of rain throughout the game. Expect a small crowd as Dedeaux (DAY-DOH) Field only holds 2,500 spectators.

Arkansas will throw Cody Scroggins to start tonight, but it will be a bullpen game for the Razorbacks. It would not surprise to see four or five pitchers see time tonight, and Scroggins be back in the dugout by the fourth inning.

USC left-hander Quentin Longrie will start opposite of Scroggins. Longrie has starter stuff, as evidenced last season when he threw 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball at Arkansas.

The Razorbacks are using the same lineup they used in Game 1 of the Eastern Illinois series, with Christian Franklin starting in left field and batting ninth, and Matt Goodheart starting at designated hitter and batting fifth.

Arkansas is wearing its road gray uniforms with red hats. USC is wearing black hats and tops, and white pants.

Discussion

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