Hogs fight back to avoid sweep

By: Chris Lee Special to the Democrat-Gazette
Published: Monday, April 15, 2019
Arkansas' Heston Kjerstad (18) runs around the bases after hitting a solo home run against Alabama during an NCAA college baseball game in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Friday, March 22, 2019. (Gary Cosby Jr./The Tuscaloosa News via AP)
Arkansas' Heston Kjerstad (18) runs around the bases after hitting a solo home run against Alabama during an NCAA college baseball game in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Friday, March 22, 2019. (Gary Cosby Jr./The Tuscaloosa News via AP)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The University of Arkansas scored five ninth-inning runs, escaping a sweep with a 14-12 victory over Vanderbilt at Hawkins Field on Sunday afternoon.

The Razorbacks (26-10, 9-6 SEC) had 22 hits, 9 two-out RBI, got the leadoff man on 7 times, and scored more runs against the Commodores than any SEC team this season.

Arkansas' pitching was another story. But right-hander Marshall Denton struck out the only two batters he faced to get his first save.

"We were due to have that big inning, and we finally got it," Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. "We got two super hits with two outs that drove in three runs. We just kept fighting. I felt like we deserved to win.

"We got embarrassed [in Saturday's 12-2 loss] and we found a way to win in, in my opinion, probably the toughest place in the SEC, as far as baseball goes, to win."

Right fielder Heston Kjerstad and catcher Casey Opitz led Arkansas with four hits, while first baseman Trevor Ezell and shortstop Casey Martin each had three. Ezell and Opitz led the Razorbacks with three RBI.

Vanderbilt had closer Tyler Brown on the mound with one out and nobody on in the ninth, and a 11-9 lead. Brown entered the game with a 1.52 ERA.

Martin singled and first baseman Matt Goodheart tripled to center. Center fielder Dominic Fletcher then delivered an RBI single to right to tie.

On a 1-2 pitch and two outs, third baseman Jacob Nesbit lined a double to left for the go-ahead run. Opitz singled to left to score two more insurance runs after Vanderbilt third baseman Austin Martin homered off Zebulon Vermillion to start the bottom of the ninth.

Denton struck out right-hander Harrison Ray and lefty Cooper Davis with two runners on to seal the victory.

"We were running short and we felt he had had success [in Friday's inning against Vanderbilt]. ... We just felt, right on right, that was the matchup, let's get that second out," Van Horn said. "And it was a battle. He finally got him out on a slider away.

"Denton's not a guy we like to leave out there against lefties, but honestly, that's all we had. We were kind of running out of pitching."

For the second consecutive day, Arkansas has a disastrous outing from its starter Sunday when Cody Scroggins allowed 10 runners and 6 runs in 2 innings.

Ace reliever Matt Cronin, who had an 0.63 ERA coming in, gave up a two-run home run to catcher Philip Clarke in the seventh that put Vanderbilt (27-9, 9-6) up 11-8.

Arkansas struck with a pair of two-out, RBI singles from Kjerstad and second baseman Jack Kenley in the first.

Scroggins couldn't find the zone in the bottom of the inning, throwing 10 balls in his first 13 pitches. He left the bases loaded, but only gave up a run on Clarke's RBI single.

Ezell added an RBI double with two out in the second. This time, Vanderbilt answered with five highlighted by first baseman Julian Infante's solo home run and Clarke's two-RBI double,

Infante greeted reliever Patrick Wicklander with a third-inning leadoff homer. The Commodores then loaded the bases before the game turned for a spell.

Wicklander struck out Ethan Paul and Clarke, then got a pop-up to left to end the inning.

Arkansas took an 8-7 lead with three in the fourth and two in the fifth, thanks to an Opitz homer to lead off the fourth, then, Ezell's two-out, two-RBI single to right for the lead in the fifth.

Vanderbilt came back with four consecutive runs. Nesbit pulled the Hogs to within two with a sacrifice fly to left in the eighth.

Vanderbilt Coach Tim Corbin said getting a sweep would have been big for the Commodores.

"You've got to be greedy," he said. "Every game mean's something, could count toward something at the end of the year so you're only as good as today.

Vermillion (4-0) picked up the victory for the Razorbacks who host the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville.

Sports on 04/15/2019


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