Hogs rally after plea from PA man

By: Matt Jones Matt Jones's Twitter account
Published: Saturday, April 3, 2021
Arkansas pinch hitter Zack Gregory applauds after he hit an RBI triple during the seventh inning of a game against Auburn on Friday, April 2, 2021, in Fayetteville.
( Andy Shupe)
Arkansas pinch hitter Zack Gregory applauds after he hit an RBI triple during the seventh inning of a game against Auburn on Friday, April 2, 2021, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — You won’t find Jon Williams’ name in the scorebook for Arkansas’ 6-5 victory over Auburn on Friday night.

But ask anyone at Baum-Walker Stadium and they will tell you the Razorbacks’ public address announcer had an effect on the outcome of the game.

Prior to the seventh inning stretch, the season-high crowd of 6,585 was quiet as the Tigers built a 4-0 lead and held Arkansas to two hits.

Williams stepped onto the balcony in front of the press box with a microphone in hand, determined to do something about it.

“I just felt like the crowd was sort of not into it,” Williams said. “I go out and do the stretch every game, and I felt like there was an opportunity to fire them up. I did and they responded.”

Williams shouted into his microphone for the crowd to get louder during the singing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and between every “pig sooie” in the Hog call. By the time Christian Franklin stepped to the plate for the first at-bat of the bottom of the seventh, there was a buzz in the ballpark.

“As I was walking back into the booth, a lot of people were just really juiced,” Williams said. “I guess it connected.”

Franklin doubled on the first pitch he saw from Auburn reliever Trace Bright. Cayden Wallace followed with a first-pitch single and the rally was on in front of a fired-up crowd.

“Once they started getting hits I could feel the crowd was really, really into it,” Williams said. “It’s like the momentum completely did a 180.”

The rally continued with an RBI single by Casey Opitz and an RBI triple by pinch hitter Zack Gregory. Arkansas tied the game on a pinch-hit sacrifice fly by Cullen Smith, and the Razorbacks took the lead when Robert Moore singled up the middle with two outs.

Arkansas scored 5 runs on 5 hits in the seventh to go ahead 5-4.

“We really noticed it. We were pumped,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said of the seventh inning crowd. “We were just talking about it in the coaches’ locker room. We were waiting for the crowd to go crazy.

“Jon must have got bored of watching us and he tried to get it going. I mean, I appreciate it. I mean that’s what they’re supposed to do at home. That was awesome. They were loud. He did stir him up and I can’t tell you how much we appreciated that.”

Jon Williams is shown during a 2015 baseball game in Fayetteville. (Photo by Michael Woods)

Williams said it was as impactful as he has ever felt in his role as a public address announcer. In addition to Arkansas’ baseball games, Williams works the microphone at the Razorbacks’ home gymnastics, women’s basketball and soccer games, and home games for the Double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals.

His work Friday was reminiscent of the days when Arkansas band director Jim Robkin would work Barnhill Arena into a frenzy by running through the stands while the band played the “William Tell Overture” during timeouts.

“I’ve never in my 15 years of doing PA felt like I was able to help an outcome until tonight,” Williams said. “I try to add to the atmosphere, but tonight it just felt like between everything Jimmy Sanchez (who chooses music and sound effects) did and the seventh inning stretch, that we actually got the crowd involved. That motivated the team a little bit, and that was nice.”

No pouting for Pallette

After an ineffective start during the series opener against Alabama two weeks ago, Peyton Pallette was moved to the bullpen to make way for Patrick Wicklander’s return to the weekend rotation.

In two weekend relief outings since, Pallette has looked strong. He allowed 1 run on 2 hits and struck out 5 in 4 1/3 innings Friday, similar to his stat line a week ago at Mississippi State when he earned a 4-inning save by allowing 1 run on 2 hits.

“It kind of put a chip on my shoulder after that Alabama outing,” Pallette said of his only loss when he was pulled with the bases loaded and no outs in the second inning. “I think it kind of flipped a switch in my head and ever since then I’ve been out there with the mentality of getting people out and just getting after them.”

Van Horn said Pallette has worked his way back into the starting conversation for next week’s series at Ole Miss.

"I think he's handled (the move to the bullpen) really well,” Van Horn said. “He hasn't pouted. He's just worked and tried to help the team win.

“We were willing to go 90-100 pitches with him if we had to even if we didn't score just to kind of build him up and get him ready to possibly start next week. The way it turned out, we scored the runs and decided to go with some guys who have finished games already this year."

Jaxon Wiggins and Kevin Kopps pitched an inning apiece after Pallette was pulled following the seventh inning Friday.

Van Horn did not specify who Pallette might replace in the rotation, but it likely would be Zebulon Vermillion, whose 2 2/3-inning start Friday was his second consecutive start that failed to go past four innings.

Vermillion had allowed 1 run in 8 innings during his 2 starts prior to a 3 1/3-inning start last week at Mississippi State.

“He's got to locate pitches and movement is a plus, but location is the key,” Van Horn said. “I think right now he just hasn't had his command the last couple weeks."

Good base running

Cayden Wallace scored the game-winning run in the eighth inning when Auburn pitcher Blake Burkhalter threw a two-strike wild pitch to Cullen Smith with two outs.

Earlier in the inning, Wallace advanced to second base on a wild pitch by Carson Swilling that never got far from Auburn catcher Ryan Dyal. But Dyal had trouble finding the ball and did not throw to second base because Wallace got a good jump.

“For him to read that ball in the dirt like that, he saw the ball out of his hand and realized it was going to hit in the dirt and he took off,” Van Horn said. “He took a little bit of a chance and obviously it paid off. We had some shots to get him in, and then he scores on a wild pitch on an 0-2 count. That ended up being the winning run. That was a really good read in that situation."

Wallace went 1 for 3 Friday to extend his hit streak to nine games. He also walked and scored two runs.

Another comeback

Friday’s victory was Arkansas’ seventh this season when trailing by at least three runs. The four-run deficit tied for the Razorbacks’ largest comeback this season.

Arkansas has rallied from a deficit in the seventh inning or later six times.

“We had a knack for that early in the season,” Van Horn said. “It was good to feel it in the dugout, that we felt like we could do it and they did it.”


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