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.
Big Game Bob delivers: Moore lets his play do talking against LSU
Arkansas' Robert Moore (1) runs toward first base after hitting a go-ahead single during the seventh inning of a game against LSU on Thursday, April 14, 2022, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — A pair of winning plays in the latter innings were just the beginning of Robert Moore’s late-night assignments Thursday.
Moore, Arkansas’ do-it-all second baseman, was unable to speak with reporters following the Razorbacks’ 5-4 victory over LSU in the series opener between teams atop the SEC West standings. He had to rush out of Baum-Walker Stadium during the 10 o’clock hour to complete an assignment for a finance class that was due by midnight.
Moore let his play do the talking. His two-run single with two outs in the seventh inning gave Arkansas a 5-3 lead, and he began an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded to preserve the lead in the eighth.
They were the type of plays that have earned Moore the nickname Big Game Bob throughout his three seasons in Fayetteville.
“I think his whole makeup is he’s just full of confidence,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “He thinks he can play, he can play and he wants that at-bat when the game is on the line or the ball hit to him when the game is on the line. It’s just kind of in his DNA, his makeup. That’s what he’s all about. He wants to be in the middle of the action, and you’ve got to love that as a coach.”
Moore’s seventh-inning hit was his first against the Tigers, but he had other productive plate appearances. In the third inning he hit a hard line out to shifted second baseman Cade Doughty to strand the bases loaded. He walked in the sixth.
It was a promising showing for Moore, who entered with a .209 batting average in SEC games.
“I think his confidence should have jumped up a little bit tonight,” Van Horn said. “He’s been fighting it a little bit, working extremely hard, coming in early, staying late, one-on-one with Coach (Nate) Thompson a lot.
“For him to hit two balls on the nose his last two at-bats, we definitely need that, obviously. We need our lineup to be deeper.”
Moore’s eighth-inning double play came after the Tigers scored once with no outs to cut the Razorbacks’ lead to 5-4. LSU loaded the bases when Josh Pearson walked with one out.
Van Horn said closer Brady Tygart “kind of pitched around” Pearson, a .333 hitter, to get to Jordan Thompson, a .275 hitter. Thompson fouled off four consecutive pitches against Tygart, then one hopped a ball at Moore, who was shifted behind second base.
Moore stepped on the bag at second and threw to first baseman Peyton Stovall to complete the double play.
"That was absolutely huge,” Tygart said. “That put absolutely all the momentum in our dugout and that got our fans into the game."
It wasn’t even Moore’s best defensive play of the night. Brayden Jobert hit a ground ball into right field to lead off the third inning, but Moore ran down the ball, whirled and threw to first base while falling away toward the foul line. Jobert was out by three steps.
That play preserved a no-hit bid for Arkansas starter Connor Noland, who retired 17 straight without a hit to begin his outing. He lost a no-hitter when the Tigers hit four consecutive two-out singles in the sixth.
“He just shows up in the big moments,” Noland said of Moore. “When you need him most, he's the guy that's going to step up and really do it. I think you saw that tonight. Every time we needed him in a big way, he seemed to show up.”
It’s what big-game players do.
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