Hogs hammer Louisiana Tech to stay unbeaten

By: Matt Jones Matt Jones's Twitter account
Published: Saturday, March 13, 2021
Arkansas first baseman Brady Slavens doubles during a game against Louisiana Tech on Saturday, March 13, 2021, in Ruston, La. (Photo courtesy Louisiana Tech athletics)
Arkansas first baseman Brady Slavens doubles during a game against Louisiana Tech on Saturday, March 13, 2021, in Ruston, La. (Photo courtesy Louisiana Tech athletics)

After his team completed another late-inning rally Friday night, Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said he’d like the Razorbacks to play with the lead a little more.

On Saturday, Van Horn got his wish.

Arkansas scored two runs in the top of the first inning and starting pitcher Zebulon Vermillion took care of most of the rest as the No. 1 Razorbacks defeated Louisiana Tech 8-1 at Love Field in Ruston, La.

Arkansas (12-0) clinched the series with its 16th consecutive win dating to last season. The Razorbacks will go for a series sweep Sunday at 11 a.m. in a game that was moved up by two hours due to a rainy afternoon forecast.

“It was good after last night’s game was pretty stressful, this game was just a solid game,” Van Horn said. “We went out there and took control early and finished it.”

Vermillion allowed 1 run on 3 hits and 3 walks in a career-high 8 innings. He faced 29 batters, five above the minimum.

It was a statement performance for Vermillion, a career relief pitcher who struggled with command after he transitioned into a starting role earlier this season. Vermillion walked 6 combined in 7 innings in his previous starts against Texas Tech and Southeast Missouri State, and transitioned back to the bullpen for 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief last week against Murray State.

“We saw his last outing…and we just felt like we were going to give him another shot before we open conference, just to see if we have confidence in him starting opening (SEC) weekend, or what role we were going to put him in going into the Alabama series,” Van Horn said. “We felt like we needed to give him an opportunity, and obviously he took advantage of it.

“He just really pitched today. His stuff was good — he could get it up to 92, 93 (mph) every now and then — but he pitched a lot around 90 and used different pitches, so it was good to see.”

Louisiana Tech (8-5) was aggressive against Vermillion, often swinging at the first or second pitch of an at-bat. Bulldogs coach Lane Burroughs called an offensive timeout in the bottom of the first inning after Tech’s first two hitters had one-pitch outs. Preseason All-American Parker Bates flied out two pitches after his conversation with Burroughs.

Vermillion, who struck out two batters, pitched to contact all afternoon. Louisiana Tech flied out 13 times and grounded out nine times.

“The frustrating thing for me was that we just kept chasing it and the at-bats were way too quick,” Burroughs said.

“I think we got a little impatient today and tried to do damage early in the count and it worked against us.”

Vermillion pitched with the lead for the entirety of his 87-pitch outing. Brady Slavens hugged a two-out, two-run double inside the third-base line to give the Razorbacks a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.

Robert Moore led off the inning with a single, but was thrown out by the center fielder Bates trying to stretch the hit into a double. Matt Goodheart was hit by a pitch with one out and Cayden Wallace followed with a single.

Van Horn said Slavens’ RBI hit allowed the team to relax.

“You’re kind of feeling like we got two hits but we didn’t have any runs yet and we were going to waste some hits and some good at-bats, and then Brady came up with two strikes and hit one down the third-base line for a double and drove in two,” Van Horn said. “That was a big relief, really.”

Vermillion didn’t allow a base runner until one-hole hitter Taylor Young walked to lead off the bottom of the fourth inning. Young advanced on a single and a groundout, and scored on a fielder’s choice RBI by Steele Netterville to pull the Bulldogs within 4-1.

Arkansas answered in the top of the fifth with Slavens’ second RBI double to go ahead 5-1. Vermillion walked Ben Brantley and Kyle Hasler with one out in the bottom of the inning, but Alex Ray hit into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.

That was the first of nine consecutive outs for Vermillion. He retired the top of the Bulldogs’ order in eight pitches in the sixth, and the middle of the order in 11 pitches in the seventh.

“Today I was just thinking, ‘One more inning, three more outs, I can do that,’” Vermillion said on the Razorback Sports Network postgame show. “Next thing I know, I go back in and they say, ‘Can you do one more?’ And I say, ‘OK, one more inning, three more outs. I can do that.’”

Arkansas broke the game open with a three-run eighth inning that included four walks. Casey Opitz and Cullen Smith scored on wild pitches by Louisiana Tech reliever Tyler Follis after Opitz, Smith and Jalen Battles loaded the bases with no outs on a single and two walks.

Wallace added an RBI single to score Battles that gave the Razorbacks an 8-1 lead, but the inning ended when Christian Franklin was thrown out by Bates while trying to score from second base.

Wallace went 3 for 4 with 2 RBI and walked once Saturday. He hit a leadoff home run in the fourth inning, and Opitz scored later in the inning on a sacrifice fly by Zack Gregory to give the Razorbacks a 4-0 lead.

Opitz’s one-out double in the fourth extended his hit streak to 10 games. Wallace, Opitz, Franklin and Slavens all had multiple hits.

Arkansas out-hit Louisiana Tech 12-4 one day after the Bulldogs recorded 13 hits. The Razorbacks hit four doubles.

Nine of the Razorbacks' hits came against Louisiana Tech starter Ryan Jennings, who allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings. Jennings walked three.

The Bulldogs issued nine free bases on seven walks and two hit batters. Louisiana Tech also threw three wild pitches.

Arkansas was successful in all four of its stolen-base attempts, but the Razorbacks were out four times on the base paths, including twice on pickoff throws to first by Jennings.


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