Martin's hit, strong defense lead Arkansas to Game 1 win at USC

By: Clay Henry
Published: Friday, February 22, 2019
Arkansas' Casey Martin gestures after scoring against Florida on an RBI-single in the first inning of an NCAA College World Series baseball game in Omaha, Neb., Friday, June 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Arkansas' Casey Martin gestures after scoring against Florida on an RBI-single in the first inning of an NCAA College World Series baseball game in Omaha, Neb., Friday, June 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Arkansas turned to great defense and lock-down pitching in the late innings to defeat Southern Cal 6-3 Thursday night at Dedeaux Field in Los Angeles.

Casey Martin followed three walks with a bases-clearing double off the wall in left-center field to give the No. 12 Razorbacks a 3-0 lead in the second inning. They added two runs in the third and a single run in the fourth for a 6-0 lead.

The Razorbacks (4-0) led in hits, 8-4, with Trevor Ezell reaching all five times behind two hits and a walk. He also stole two bases and reached on two errors. Heston Kjerstad also had two hits.

Southern Cal (2-2) scored three runs in the bottom of the third on three walks and three hit batsmen, but reliever Kole Ramage put out the fire with a bases-loaded strikeout. He fanned Chase Bushor, the first batter he faced, on three pitches.

Ramage (2-0) got the win with 3 1/3 scoreless innings. He allowed two hits and fanned two. Left fielder Christian Franklin got him out of trouble in the sixth with a diving catch that turned into a double play when base runner Emilio Rosas failed to retouch second heading back to first base.

After allowing a one-out double, reliever Zebulon Vermillion benefitted from Jecob Nesbit's diving stab on a grounder at third for a groundout in the eighth. Lefty junior Matt Cronin then fanned the final four Southern Cal batters for his first save of the season.

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn pointed to Nesbit's play as a big key.

“If he doesn’t make that play, they’ve got runners at minimum second and third, one out,” Van Horn said. “Defense is what won us this ballgame. Yeah, we put together a couple of innings, had some really good at-bats to get those runners on for Martin, but the defense was outstanding.”

Martin was fooled on two pitches out of the strike zone ahead of his double, but was ready when USC starter Quentin Longrie (0-1) gave him a fastball over the plate.

“He struggled and then he settled in, took some pitches,” Van Horn said of Martin's double. “They worked the fastball in on him a little bit and he jammed it one time. The pitch before he hit the ball off the fence, he got it in on him and he fouled it. I think he tried it again and Casey punished it.”

Arkansas starter Cody Scroggins recorded seven of his eight strikeouts in the first three innings, but ran into control problems in the fourth. After a groundout to start the frame, he hit two batters and walked one to end his night.

Freshman Patrick Wicklander, a native of San Jose, Calif., couldn't find the plate in his three batters. He walked two and hit one to force home three runs. That's when Ramage put out the fire.

“I thought (Scroggins) did a great job,” Van Horn said. “He gave us almost four solid innings. He really hit his pinch count the hitter before and we should have pulled him. He ended up walking one of their bigger hitters on some border pitches just below the knees.

“We told him, ‘Hey, keep throwing the ball there.’ Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t. He was great. He was throwing his fastball for a strike, his changeup was going against the lefties a lot and his slider was obviously going. I’d give him the ball on a Friday night. I liked what I saw.

“You know, Wicklander was the one - he threw great the other day - and he came in today and he looked like he was having trouble gripping the ball, nervous, back in California - I’ve seen it a hundred times....You take his outing away and I thought we had a really good day.”

The Hogs plated two in the third inning. Ezell reached on an error by Bushor, the shortstop, and took second on a wild pitch. Dominic Fletcher singled to right field with Ezell holding at third. Matt Goodheart's infield hit scored Ezell. Fletcher scored on Casey Opitz's sacrifice fly.

Franklin walked with one out in the fourth. He moved to third on Kjerstad's double. Bushor couldn't handle Ezell's hard shot for his second error, with Franklin scoring.

Van Horn liked the start from Scroggins, but likes him in other roles, too.

“I told him at the beginning of the year that he was kind of like our wild card,” Van Horn said. “We can start him, we can put him in long relief, we can close him - I like him as a closer, as well. We’re trying to figure it out.

“I like having a strong bullpen like every coach does; you don’t want to give it up late and you also want to have the lead and have some strong pitching."

Arkansas will go with Isaiah Campbell (1-0) in the second game of the series Friday, with the first pitch scheduled for 8 p.m., Central.


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