Bob Holt is a sports reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he sits on the board of directors for the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year four times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
5-run innings push Hogs past Santa Clara in first regional game
Arkansas center fielder Tavian Josenberger celebrates Friday, June 2, 2023, after scoring on a three-run, bases-clearing single by designated hitter Kendall Diggs during the fourth inning of the Razorbacks’ 13-6 win over Santa Clara in the first round of the NCAA Fayetteville Regional at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas bats finally woke up in the fourth inning against Santa Clara on Friday in the opener of the NCAA Fayetteville Regional.
Arkansas broke through with five runs after being hitless the first three innings. The offense kept pouring it on as the Razorbacks beat the Broncos 13-6 before an announced crowd of 11,078 at Baum-Walker Stadium.
The Razorbacks (42-16) play at 8 p.m. tonight against TCU, which defeated Arizona 12-4.
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Arkansas notched its highest run total since a 14-2 win at Mississippi State on May 6.
The top of Arkansas’ order had been slumping, and Coach Dave Van Horn said after the SEC Tournament that needed to change if the Razorbacks were going to win their home regional.
It did change on Friday, at least.
Center fielder Tavian Josenberger, who had been 4 for 30 in 9 games since returning from a hamstring injury, went 2 for 6, including a 2-run home run.
It was Josenberger’s eighth home run and first since April 16 in a 7-2 victory over Tennessee.
“I think the guys that have been struggling, including myself, we’re staying positive,” Josenberger said. “We were just waiting to break out.
“Now’s the perfect time to get hot, so we just need to keep going.”
The Razorbacks finished with 10 hits and 10 walks. They also reached base three times on hit by pitches.
“We knew going in that Arkansas was probably the only team we’ve played all year that sees more pitches per plate appearance than we do,” Santa Clara Coach Rusty Filter said. “I think they’re 3.98 and we’re 3.92.
“Really good job being patient and getting their pitch. We were unable to get the count into our favor and stay ahead in the count and they made us pay for it.”
The Razorbacks took a 5-2 lead lead in the fourth inning when Santa Clara starter Cole Kitchen walked Caleb Cali leading off and was replaced by hard-throwing right-hander Skylar Hales.
Hales, whose fastball topped out at 98 miles per hour on the stadium scoreboard, struck out Jace Bohrofen. Jared Wegner singled, advancing Cali to second base.
Parker Rowland followed with an RBI single that scored Cali and sent Wegner to third base. Wegner scored on John Bolton’s sacrifice fly to make it 2-2. Josenberger singled and Peyton Holt walked to load the bases.
Kendall Diggs hit a 2-2 pitch for a fly ball that center fielder Coleman Brigman initially broke back on, then missed catching on a diving attempt when the ball felt just in front of him.
With the runners off on contact his single cleared the bases.
“That’s just a tough play in a new ballpark,” Filter said. “A big swing and not much contact.
“Coleman Brigman has been a great defensive player for us all year. He came in and had to dive for it, and he almost caught it. He did break back, and then broke in to make the play. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to get there.
“But that’s what good teams do. Good teams find ways that aren’t normal to score runs.”
Van Horn said he felt fortunate the Razorbacks put a big inning together.
“We did a great job of fouling off pitches, taking walks,” Van Horn said. “We finally had a couple of balls find some holes, because we did hit some balls hard early that didn’t. I think we just kind of relaxed a little bit.
“We took some pitches that were so-called pitcher’s pitches, just kept flipping the count and getting it in our favor. Got some big hits.
“It was really good to see our team do that.”
The Broncos closed within 5-3 in the fifth inning on two-out doubles by Efrain Manzo and Brigman.
Arkansas pushed its lead to 10-3 in the sixth inning when Josenberger hit a two-run home run and Wegner, Rowland and Bolton drew three consecutive two-out, bases-loaded walks against Blake Hammond.
Van Horn initially gave Josenberger the sign to bunt for a hit, before he homered on a 3-2 pitch from Nick Sando.
“Definite momentum change for them,” Filter said.
Cali’s three-run homer in the seventh inning put the Razorbacks ahead 13-3 before the Broncos (35-19) rallied late against Arkansas relievers Will McEntire and Cody Adcock.
McEntire pitched five innings after replacing starter Hunter Hollan, who went 2 1/3 innings and allowed 2 runs, 3 hits and 2 walks on 49 pitches.
“The mission was just keep it where it was and let our offense get going,” McEntire said. “Once our offense did get going and we got that lead, just eat up innings and pass it on to the next guy to finish off the game.”
McEntire threw 81 pitches, but he said he’ll be ready to pitch later in the regional if needed.
“We wouldn’t have won if he hadn’t come in there and slowed them down and gave us an opportunity to gain a little confidence and score some runs,” Van Horn said. “If you’re an offense and you are just trying to chase two runs and then three, four or five, it’s tough.”
Santa Clara had a runner on third base with one out in the sixth inning and McEntire got two pop-ups to keep Arkansas’ lead at 5-3.
“That was big,” Van Horn said. “He’s done a great job the second half of the season when we started using him out of the pen more. He’s been the guy.”
Santa Clara, which had won eight consecutive games, jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first inning with three hits, including a two-run single by Efriam Manzo.
“I felt like our guys, they didn’t really flinch when they got punched,” Van Horn said. “Took it and hung in there.
“I felt like they were on Hunter Hollan pretty good. He was mixing, throwing strikes, but they just fouled a lot of pitches off and did a great job and got his pitch count up.”
Van Horn shuffled his lineup with Peyton Holt moving from 7-hole to 2-hole and Bohrofen and Wegner moving to the No. 6 and No. 7 spots.
“Those guys are behind me and I’m trying to get on base as many times as possible so they can drive me in,” Cali, who hit in the 5-hole, told the Razorback Sports Network postgame radio show. “That was today’s lineup, but I think everyone has done a really good job all year contributing in their times.
“It was a little shakeup to get the offense rolling and I think it did a little bit. I think it worked out.”
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