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.
Arkansas tops Texas A&M in opener, inches closer to title
Arkansas pitcher Isaiah Campbell (55) delivers against Alabama during an NCAA college baseball game in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Friday, March 22, 2019. (Gary Cosby Jr./The Tuscaloosa News via AP)
Arkansas took another step toward a regular-season championship Thursday night.
The No. 4 Razorbacks hit five home runs and defeated No. 19 Texas A&M 7-3 in the opening game of the three-game series at Blue Bell Park.
Arkansas (40-13, 20-8 SEC) maintained a one-game lead over Mississippi State in the SEC West standings. The Bulldogs defeated South Carolina 24-7 on Thursday.
The Razorbacks can clinch a share of the division Friday with a win or a Mississippi State loss.
Arkansas remains one game behind Vanderbilt in the SEC race. The No. 2 Commodores defeated Kentucky 16-10 on Thursday by scoring seven runs in the final two innings following a lengthy rain delay.
Casey Martin hit a pair of two-out solo home runs in the fifth and ninth innings for the Razorbacks on Thursday. Martin, who was named a semifinalist for the Dick Howser Trophy earlier in the day, has 14 home runs this season, eclipsing his total from his Freshman All-America campaign last year.
Trevor Ezell hit a three-run home run off Texas A&M starter Chris Weber in the third inning to break a scoreless tie. After the Aggies scored two runs in the fourth to pull within 3-2, Martin and Matt Goodheart hit back-to-back home runs in the fifth to put the Razorbacks ahead 5-2.
Jack Kenley added a solo home run in the sixth inning to put Arkansas up 6-2. Texas A&M got a run back in the eighth when Braden Shewmake doubled to lead off the inning and scored on Jake LaRoach's RBI single to bring the Aggies within 6-3, but Martin homered in the top of the next inning to cap the scoring.
The Razorbacks hit five home runs for the second consecutive series opener. Arkansas has hit 75 home runs this season, three shy of the regular-season record of 78 set last season.
Texas A&M (34-19-1, 14-13-1) had allowed 32 home runs in 53 games entering Thursday.
Arkansas starter Isaiah Campbell allowed 2 runs - 1 earned - in 6 innings to earn his 10th win in 14 starts. Campbell, who was named a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award on Wednesday, struck out 6 batters.
Matt Cronin worked around a one-out single and two-out walk in the ninth inning, but did not earn a save. Kevin Kopps pitched 1 1/3 innings and Jacob Kostyshock recorded two outs out of the bullpen.
Weber, a freshman left hander, suffered his first career loss after allowing 5 runs on 6 hits in 5 innings. Weber struck out 10 and Texas A&M pitching recorded 18 strikeouts.
The Aggies out-hit Arkansas 11-10. Texas A&M stranded eight base runners.
The Razorbacks became the second team in program history to win 20 SEC games, and the first since the 1999 team won 22 and the conference championship.
Arkansas also reached 40 wins in 53 games - quicker than any Arkansas team since the 1989 College World Series team won 40 of its first 48.
The Razorbacks' national runner-up team last year didn't reach 40 wins until its 58th game, during the NCAA Tournament.
CORRECTION: An earlier version indicated the 2018 Arkansas team hit 78 home runs during the season. It has been changed to reflect the number of home runs hit during the regular season (78). The 2018 team hit 98 home runs overall.
Arkansas 7, Texas A&M 3 - Top 9th Inning
Arkansas has hit five home runs for the second consecutive series opener. Casey Martin's second two-out solo home run tonight has put the Razorbacks ahead by four runs in the top of the ninth. Martin hit the ball to center field. It was his 14th home run of the year.
Arkansas now has hit 75 home runs this season, three shy of the program's single-season record set last year.
Arkansas 6, Texas A&M 3 - End 8th Inning
Jacob Kostyshock allowed a single to his first batter, but worked around runners on the corners to get out of the eighth-inning jam. He struck out six-hole hitter Hunter Watson on a 93 mph, 2-2 fastball to end the inning. The Aggies have stranded six.
Matt Cronin is up and ready to throw in the ninth inning, but first the Razorbacks will send Jacob Nesbit, Trevor Ezell and Casey Martin to the plate in the top of the inning.
Arkansas 6, Texas A&M 3 - Bottom 8th Inning
Texas A&M leadoff man Braden Shewmake doubled to lead off the eighth inning, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on an RBI single by Zach DeLoach with one out.
Arkansas is going back to the bullpen and bringing in Jacob Kostyshock to replace Kevin Kopps. You've got to believe Matt Cronin would be called upon if the Aggies threaten anymore.
Arkansas 6, Texas A&M 2 - Middle 8th Inning
Arkansas couldn't do anything with Jack Kenley's one-out double in the eighth inning. Texas A&M went to the bullpen after the hit, and Jake Nelson struck out Christian Franklin and Casey Opitz to end the half inning.
The Razorbacks have stranded five.
Kevin Kopps is coming back to the mound for Arkansas in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Arkansas 6, Texas A&M 2 - End 7th Inning
Texas A&M's Hunter Coleman had a one-out single in the seventh inning when Arkansas center fielder Dominic Fletcher lost a ball in the lights, but the Aggies couldn't move the base runner when their bottom two hitters grounded out and flied out.
The Aggies have stranded four base runners. Arkansas is out-hitting Texas A&M 8-7.
Arkansas 6, Texas A&M 2 - Middle 7th Inning
The Razorbacks stranded two in the seventh inning. Trevor Ezell singled past the third baseman with one out and Matt Goodheart drew a two-out walk. The inning ended when Texas A&M catcher Mikey Hoehner made a sliding catch behind the plate on a popup by Dominic Fletcher.
Isaiah Campbell's game is over after he threw 102 pitches in six innings. Kevin Kopps will throw for Arkansas in the seventh inning. Campbell is in line for his 10th win.
Arkansas 6, Texas A&M 2 - End 6th Inning
Isaiah Campbell's night might be over after another lengthy inning in the Texas heat. He worked around a lead off single - the Aggies' third straight - with three straight ground outs, but his pitch count is up to 102.
Campbell's line as of now: 6 innings, 2 runs (1 earned), 6 hits, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts.
Arkansas 6, Texas A&M 2 - Top 6th Inning
Jack Kenley just belted a one-out home run in the sixth inning. The Razorbacks have four home runs tonight and are inching closer to the single-season record.
Kenley's homer cleared the boards in right field, which is where the wind is blowing toward tonight. That is his 11th homer this season.
In the past two series openers, Arkansas has hit nine home runs.
Arkansas 5, Texas A&M 2 - End 5th Inning
The Aggies led off with a single for the second straight inning, but Isaiah Campbell worked around it with two fly outs and a strikeout. He has six strikeouts tonight.
Texas A&M is going to the bullpen in the sixth. Chris Weber is in line for his first loss after allowing five runs and throwing 102 pitches.
Arkansas 5, Texas A&M 2 - Top 5th Inning
Casey Martin and Matt Goodheart have hit back-to-back home runs off of Chris Weber with two outs in the fifth inning, and the Razorbacks are back ahead by three runs.
The Razorbacks have three home runs tonight that have accounted for all five of their runs. Arkansas has now hit 73 home runs this season, which is five shy of the single-season school record set last season.
Arkansas 3, Texas A&M 2 - End 4th Inning
Isaiah Campbell struck out Will Frizzell on a 1-2 slider away that Frizzell swung at and missed. Campbell has five strikeouts.
Arkansas 3, Texas A&M 2 - Bottom 4th Inning
Texas A&M led off the fourth with consecutive singles by Braden Shewmake and Bryce Blaum. Shewmake scored on a squeeze bunt back to the pitcher, and Blaum scored when Arkansas third baseman Jacob Nesbit couldn't pull in a throw down from catcher Casey Opitz.
Cam Blake, who reached on the bunt and advanced on the error, was thrown out at third base by Opitz on the next pitch while trying to steal.
Isaiah Campbell just issued a two-out walk, so the threat isn't over for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas 3, Texas A&M 0 - Middle 4th Inning
Heston Kjerstad singled with one out and Christian Franklin reached on a two-out error by the third baseman. Both were stranded when Casey Opitz flied out to center field to end the half inning. Those were the first stranded runners for either team.
Chris Weber's pitch count has suddenly jumped to 76 through four innings.
Arkansas 3, Texas A&M 0 - End 3rd Inning
Isaiah Campbell has retired Texas A&M in order the first time through the lineup. He struck out two batters, then won a battle with nine-hole hitter Ty Coleman, who flied out to shallow left field to end the inning. Coleman's at-bat lasted 10 pitches.
Campbell has thrown 45 pitches through three innings.
Arkansas 3, Texas A&M 0 - Top 3rd Inning
Arkansas has taken the lead on Trevor Ezell's monster home run with one out in the top of the third inning. The three-run homer easily cleared the wall in left-center field.
Facing a 3-2 pitch with runners on the corners, Ezell turned on Chris Weber from the right side of the plate.
Christian Franklin doubled to lead off the inning and Casey Opitz followed with a single.
Arkansas 0, Texas A&M 0 - End 2nd Inning
Neither team has had a base runner through two quick innings. Dominic Fletcher and Heston Kjerstad made contact, but lined out and grounded out against Chris Weber in the second inning, and Weber struck out Jack Kenley looking.
Isaiah Campbell also recorded a looking strikeout in the bottom of the inning, and got two ground-ball outs. He has thrown 26 pitches, 16 for strikes.
Arkansas 0, Texas A&M 0 - End 1st Inning
If the game turns out anything like the first inning, expect a pitcher's duel. Texas A&M's Chris Weber threw 15 pitches and Arkansas' Isaiah Campbell needed only eight pitches to retire the side in order.
It is a sunny, hot day in Texas. The temperature is in the mid-80s as the Razorbacks and Aggies get underway.
Tonight's game features a pair of pitchers with much different levels of experience. Arkansas redshirt freshman Isaiah Campbell (9-1, 2.57 ERA) is going against Texas A&M freshman left hander Chris Weber (4-0, 2.79 ERA). Weber is usually a bullpen pitcher for the Aggies.
With a win tonight and a Mississippi State loss to South Carolina, Arkansas would win at least a share of the SEC West.
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