Bob Holt is a sports reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he sits on the board of directors for the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year four times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
Arkansas ends skid as offense awakens
Missouri State infielder Aaron Meyer (8) and outfielder Alex Jefferson (40) collide while pursuing a ball during second inning action of an NCAA college baseball game between Missouri State and Arkansas at Hammons Field in Springfield, Mo. on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. (Guillermo Hernandez Martinez/News-Leader via AP)
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- After the Arkansas Razorbacks were scoreless the final 13 innings of their series against LSU last weekend, the offense was back in a big way Tuesday night.
The No. 15 Razorbacks had a season-high 18 hits and beat Missouri State 12-4 at Hammonds Field before an announced crowd of 2,540.
"I felt like we were going to score some runs," Razorbacks Coach Dave Van Horn said. "I didn't know we'd score this many. I figured we'd bounce back."
The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (26-8) bounced back from losses to No. 13 LSU 10-8 and 2-0 last Saturday and Sunday -- the Razorbacks' first back-to-back losses of the season -- after beating the Tigers 9-3 to open their series.
"Mentally I think we came out and played hard Sunday, but we just used so much energy Saturday and we lost the game," Van Horn said. "For us to come out and play like this tonight, it was good."
Beating Missouri State (21-12) also was good for Arkansas' national resume, considering the Bears are No. 23 in this week's NCAA Ratings Percentage Index, a formula used to rank teams based on records and strength of schedule.
The Razorbacks, whose previous season high for hits was 17 in their 7-1 victory at Alabama on March 31, are No 28 in the NCAA RPI.
"It's a good RPI win," Van Horn said. "Road wins are hard enough as it is, but when you get one that has an RPI ahead of ours, it's really going to help ours."
Razorbacks catcher Grant Koch -- who was 3 for 20 in the previous six games -- went 3 for 3 on Tuesday with 2 runs batted in. He also had two walks and reached base five times.
"He stayed over some pitches," Van Horn said. "He didn't try to do too much. We need to get him rolling a little bit and get the middle of the lineup going."
Chad Spanberger, playing right field, was 3 for 4 with 3 RBI and 2 runs. He also had two walks. Left fielder Luke Bonfield was 3 for 6 with 3 RBI and 2 runs. First baseman Jordan McFarland was 3 for 5 and shortstop Jax Biggers was 2 for 3.
"We come out with the same approach every night and I think tonight was just one of those where we put some good innings together and kind of built off each other's hits and success," Koch said. "We know how good they are in the other dugout.
"They're having a lot of success this year and for us to come out and play the way we did tonight, it shows a lot about us responding. It was big for us."
Dominic Taccolini pitched the seventh inning for the Razorbacks and struck out the side, including Jake Burger and Jeremy Eierman, who have hit a combined 25 home runs this season.
"I thought he was outstanding," Van Horn said of Taccolini. "He had really good stuff. He had a good fastball and cutter, sinker. He threw a couple of sliders. I was proud of him."
Matt Cronin, the third of Arkansas' eight pitchers, was credited with the victory. He held the Bears scoreless on 1 hit in 1 2/3 innings.
"We played well all the way around," Van Horn said. "I thought we pitched extremely well.
"They've got a very good lineup. Burger and Eierman at 3 and 4, they're as good as you're going to see in the country. A lot of power and a good approach.
"I thought defensively we made all the plays that we needed to make."
Arkansas scored five runs in the fifth inning -- with the help of some defensive misplays by Missouri State -- to take a 7-2 lead.
The Razorbacks benefitted by Biggers reaching first on a sacrifice bunt when catcher Drew Millas threw wildly.
That loaded the bases after Jaxon Williams' walk and McFarland's single.
The Bears had another defense lapse when Jake Arledge hit a ground ball to second baseman Aaron Meyer. Biggers' eluded Meyer's tag attempt and Arledge beat the throw to first as Williams scored to make it 3-2.
Spanberger followed with a two-run double and Bonfield with a two-run single.
Spanberger had an RBI single and Arledge scored on wild pitch to make it 9-2 in fifth inning.
"Offensively we did a good job of creating some pretty good innings," Van Horn said. "Then we just kept adding onto it."
Arkansas took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on singles by Arledge, Spanberger and Koch. Burger hit his 13th home run of the season to tie it 1-1 in the bottom of the first inning.
Three consecutive singles by Bonfield, Koch and Shaddy in third inning put the Razorbacks ahead 2-1. Missouri State tied it 2-2 in the bottom of the third on back-to-back doubles by Burger and Eierman.
Koch said Taccolini was "crazy good" Tuesday night.
"His stuff was as good as I've seen it all year," Koch said. "That's really good to see going into the weekend."
Arkansas, which is tied with Auburn and Mississippi State atop the SEC West standings at 8-4, resumes conference play against Georgia (15-19, 4-8) on Thursday night at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville. The Bulldogs beat Georgia Tech 5-1 Tuesday night.
"That doesn't surprise me," Van Horn said. " Georgia has a really good team, good talent.
"It's good to get off that losing streak. Now we can just think about Georgia the whole way home and get ready for our practice tomorrow."
Sports on 04/12/2017
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