Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Diamond Hogs heat up late to sweep Leathernecks
Arkansas starter Marshall Denton delivers to the plate against Western Illinois on Wednesday, March 13, 2019, during the third inning at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas put away Western Illinois one inning early Wednesday.
Playing under a run rule that was agreed upon before the game, the No. 10 Razorbacks scored two runs in each of their final two at-bats to defeat the Leathernecks 11-1 in eight innings at Baum-Walker Stadium.
Arkansas swept the two-game midweek series and improved to 12-1 this season at home in its final tuneup for Southeastern Conference play. The Razorbacks host Missouri in the SEC opener Friday night.
Arkansas (14-2) won with consecutive one-out, pinch-hit RBI singles by Trey Harris and Matt Goodheart in the eighth inning. The Razorbacks had loaded the bases with no outs in the inning on two walks and a hit batsman.
“It was good to see…those two guys in the game, get them at-bats and bring them off the bench cold to see how they respond, because it hasn’t gone great with our pinch hitting,” University of Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “Those two guys both singled, so hopefully they can sleep on that and gain a little bit of confidence with it.”
Arkansas had struggled to plate runs early in the game against the Leathernecks (4-10), who committed 3 errors, issued 8 walks, hit 4 batters, threw a wild pitch and were called for a balk.
The Razorbacks had two hits and stranded seven base runners over the first three innings. Arkansas loaded the bases with one out in the first inning, but came away empty handed when designated hitter Jordan McFarland and Jack Kenley struck out in consecutive at-bats.
“We had a chance to break that one open,” Van Horn said. “It was some guys that are trying to earn a spot, one of them, a DH, that didn’t get one in. That was frustrating. I know he’s frustrated.
“But we did get some big hits there the second half of the game and kind of put it away.”
The Razorbacks broke the game open with four runs in the fifth inning that extended their lead to 7-0. Casey Martin and Trevor Ezell had RBI hits in the inning, and Curtis Washington, Jr., had an RBI on a sacrifice bunt. Heston Kjerstad also scored on a wild pitch by WIU reliever Jack Carberry.
“I felt like we took advantage of all their mistakes,” Van Horn said.
Western Illinois scored its only run in the sixth inning on a one-out RBI single by Bailey Montgomery against Arkansas freshman right hander Elijah Trest, who was pitching for the second time this season. It snapped a streak of 23 consecutive scoreless innings by the Razorbacks, who came close to recording three consecutive shutouts for the first time since 1980.
Arkansas had a strong start from redshirt sophomore Marshall Denton, who worked around two hits in three scoreless innings and earned the win in his first career start. Denton struck out three batters.
“I feel like I did pretty good,” Denton said. “I threw a lot of strikes and that’s what I wanted to do today.”
Dominic Fletcher put the Razorbacks ahead 9-1 with a two-out, two-run double in the bottom of the seventh inning. McFarland followed and represented the winning run, but grounded out to send the game to the eighth.
Arkansas sophomore Zebulon Vermillion recorded the first two outs in the top of the eighth inning to cap his perfect five-out relief appearance, and freshman Liam Henry recorded the Razorbacks’ 10th strikeout to bring the team back to the plate for the winning runs.
Five Arkansas pitchers combined to walk one batter and threw 64 of 99 pitches for strikes. The Razorbacks have a 3.87 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which ranks 11th nationally.
“Pretty much everyone we put out there did their job,” Van Horn said. “I think we walked them one time on the day and gave up four or five hits, but we were never really in any danger of giving up a big inning, so that was good.”
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