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.
Hit-happy Tide pummel Diamond Hogs
Alabama first baseman Drew Williamson (18) is congratulated at the plate Friday, March 31, 2023, by second baseman Ed Johnson (5) after hitting a two-run home run to score Johnson during the fifth inning against Arkansas at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas baseball team was riding a streak of Friday invincibility heading into its series opener against Alabama.
The Crimson Tide shook off that notion with a barrage of home runs and a season-high 22 hits to deal the No. 6 Razorbacks a 12-1 blowout, their first Friday loss of the season before an announced crowd of 10,032 at Baum-Walker Stadium.
Alabama (21-6, 3-4 SEC) beat the Hogs for the fourth consecutive time dating to last May, outhit the Hogs 22-3 and pulled within a game of Arkansas (20-7, 4-3) in the SEC West standings.
“Their offense just got after our pitching tonight and we didn’t have an answer,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said.
Colby Shelton, Mac Guscette, Drew Williamson and William Hamiter homered for Alabama, increasing the Tide’s season total to 49.
The Razorbacks fell out of first place behind LSU in the SEC West for the first time this season and dropped to 6-1 in Friday series openers. Alabama’s 22 hits surpassed the 19 amassed by TCU on Feb. 18 as the most by an Arkansas opponent this season and were the most allowed by a Van Horn team at Arkansas.
The Crimson Tide had 23 hits while dropping a series 2-1 against Kentucky last weekend.
“It might be more [hits] than we got all last weekend,” Alabama Coach Brad Bohannon said. “It was just one of those nights. Everything we hit found a hole. I mean we hit some balls hard, but every time we get a ground ball, it went through. When they barreled a ball, it went to us. It was just one of those nights.”
The Razorbacks have lost their past three conference games by a combined score of 38-8 following Saturday’s doubleheader loss at LSU.
“You know we’ve got to figure it out,” Van Horn said. “You could point at pitching, but you could also point at hitting as well. We haven’t driven in any runs in league play. We’re not hitting very well in league play the last three games. So that’s a lot of pressure on pitchers when you’re not scoring and vice versa. The message is we get to try again tomorrow.”
Alabama reliever Hagan Banks (1-0) picked up the win on four innings of hitless relief with five strikeouts. The 6-4 right-hander has not allowed a run in 16 1/3 innings.
The Crimson Tide worked over left hander Hunter Hollan (4-1), who had tamed hot-hitting LSU last Friday. Hollan allowed a season-high 7 runs on 10 hits and a walk while lasting 4 innings plus 3 batters into the fifth.
Alabama got on the board in the second inning after Caden Rose led off with a double down the left field line. Former Razorback Dominic Tamez guided an opposite-field single into right field to bring home Rose with no outs in the inning. Tommy Seidl singled with one out and Jim Jarvis drew a two-out walk before Hollan escaped the inning by striking out Andrew Pinckney with the bases loaded.
The Tide’s 1-0 lead lasted into the third, when Tavian Josenberger hit a line drive home run over the right field wall off Ben Hess to make it 1-1. Josenberger’s fifth home run, three more than he hit in two seasons at Kansas, extended Arkansas’ streak of games with a home run to 22.
Alabama took the lead for good 2-1 in the fourth inning on Shelton’s solo home run, his 12th, to right-center field. After Seidl singled, Guscette, a Florida transfer, launched a two-run homer to left field that blew out with a healthy wind for a 4-1 lead.
Alabama batted around in the fifth inning, knocking out Hollan and banging up freshman Gage Wood in a five-run inning.
Alabama second baseman Ed Johnson, who went 3 for 6 and reached base four times, singled to open the fifth and scored on Williamson’s home run to left-center field, his ninth, as the Crimson Tide increased their lead to 6-1.
When Rose followed with a single, Hollan’s night was done, but Alabama had more business in the inning. Tamez singled and Shelton walked to load the bases. Wood retired the next two batters before Jarvis laced a two-run single up the middle. Pinckney’s single drove in another run for a 9-1 Tide lead.
Alabama starter Ben Hess worked 4 innings and allowed a single run on 2 hits and 2 walks on 68 pitches. He came out with some tightness in his right arm with a 9-1 lead.
Peyton Stovall’s ninth inning single with two outs was Arkansas’ first hit since Josenberger’s third inning home run.
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