Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Brady's bunch: Slavens' 5 RBI lead Razorbacks over UALR
Arkansas first baseman Brady Slavens connects Wednesday, April 7, 2021, for a three-run home run during the first inning of the Razorbacks' 10-3 win over UALR at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas first baseman Brady Slavens snapped out of a mild run-producing drought with 5 RBI to send the No. 2 Razorbacks to a 10-3 victory over the University of Arkansas at Little Rock on Wednesday.
Slavens, the team RBI leader who had driven in runs in just four of the previous 12 games, notched the first and last of the run-scoring hits for the Hogs against the Trojans (12-13) before a crowd of 4,002 at Baum-Walker Stadium.
He cranked a first-inning home run to straightaway center field and added a two-run single to complete the scoring in the eighth as Arkansas (24-4) swept the two-game set and won for the 12th time in 13 games.
UALR equaled the Razorbacks in hits with eight, but Arkansas cashed in with three home runs to push its season total to 50.
Arkansas scored in the first inning of both games against the Trojans and led throughout, a change of pace for a team that had come from behind to win seven times after trailing by three or more runs, twice last weekend against Auburn.
“It’s always a good feeling to have the lead, obviously,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “It’s better than scratching, clawing, trying to come back like we’ve done so many times this year. But we’ve learned how to do it and we’re pretty good at it. But obviously I’d rather have the lead.”
Slavens jolted a 2-2 fastball from UALR starter Cole Evans more than 400 feet over the wall in center field after Robert Moore and Christian Franklin opened the bottom of the first with walks to make it 3-0 from the jump.
“I was just battling with two strikes,” Slavens said. “A fastball a little elevated, and I put a good swing on it and luckily the wind was good today, a change today because the last couple of weeks it’s been blowing straight in. But I got a good swing on it and it went over.”
UALR Coach Chris Curry said the Trojans pitched Slavens tough on Tuesday, but not as well in the finale.
“Today he was able to get into some good counts,” Curry said. “I think we were able to stay left-handed last night against him. Today we had some right-handers in there who got behind in the count and a guy with that kind of power and leverage, he’s going to drive the ball.”
Slavens, who had 19 RBI in the first 14 games, boosted his team RBI lead to 31.
“He was on a pretty good roll there for a while and then that disappeared,” Van Horn said. “That’s kind of how the game works. Obviously he’s a middle-of-the-order hitter and for him to drive in runs is definitely going to help us win games.”
Slavens’ home run was his team-high tying seventh, but his first in 17 days since a shot against Alabama’s Antoine Jean on March 21.
Evans wound up striking out the side but not before Charlie Welch launched a sky-high shot to left field that the wind helped lift beyond the bullpen for his third home run and a 4-0 lead.
The score remained that way until Moore lifted a shot over the wall in right field against Luke Wallner, who pitched well otherwise, in the fourth inning. That was Moore’s sixth home run and the first run given up by Wallner this season.
Caleb Bolden (1-0) allowed 6 base runners in his 4 innings on 4 hits and 2 walks, but the right-hander wiggled out of trouble in three of his innings, did not allow a run and notched the win.
In the fourth, Arkansas pitching coach Matt Hobbs visited Bolden after Noah Dickerson singled with one out and Kenny Rodriguez walked on four pitches.
“We needed a little timeout right there,” Van Horn said. “Relax. Start over. Catch his breath and attack instead of nibbling. Just go get them. Make them earn it. We’ve got the lead, you know? Let’s go at them.”
The Trojans got on the board against righty reliever Evan Gray in the fifth after nine-hole hitter Eldrige Figueroa led off with a walk. Nathan Lyons followed with a single, and both runners moved up on a wild pitch. That allowed consecutive ground-ball outs by Jorden Hussein and Tyler Williams to drive in runs and cut the deficit to 5-2.
Lyons, a junior from Bentonville, had a high-action day. He went 2 for 3 with a home run, 2 runs scored and 1 RBI from the leadoff spot. But he was thrown out at second after reaching base in his first two plate appearances.
Catcher Dylan Leach gunned him out on a steal attempt in the first inning. In the third, Lyons appeared to lose track of the outs and ran from second base on Williams’ one-out liner to center field. Franklin made the catch and doubled him off second. Lyons also had a pair of strong defensive plays at third base.
The early innings featured one defensive collision and nearly another due to the gusting winds. Hussein, the UALR second baseman, held on to Slavens’ high pop in right field after bumping into the right fielder Rodriguez. In the first inning, Arkansas right fielder Cayden Wallace came in to catch Hussein’s high pop and nearly ran into the second baseman Moore, who had ranged well into the outfield to try to make the play.
Moore went 3 for 4 with a walk, 3 runs scored and 2 RBI to raise his batting average to .294.
The Razorbacks travel to No. 3 Ole Miss this weekend, while the Trojans play host to South Alabama in Sun Belt play.
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