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.
Razorbacks sweep again, win 10th straight
Arkansas left fielder Jared Wegner hits a home run during a game against UNLV on Wednesday, March 15, 2023, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Jared Wegner homered again as the No. 6 Arkansas Razorbacks got their best mid-week start of the season and their 10th win in a row with a 5-2 victory over UNLV on Wednesday.
The University of Arkansas (15-2) swept the two-game series from the Rebels (5-10) and improved to 13-1 on its season-long 18-game home stand before an announced crowd of 8,785 at Baum-Walker Stadium.
Freshman right-hander Ben Bybee (1-0) was in command through five innings, allowing no runs on 6 hits and a walk with 3 strikeouts.
The 6-6, 235-pound Bybee and fellow freshman Gage Wood got the Razorbacks through six scoreless innings against the second-best scoring team in the Mountain West Conference.
Senior left-hander Zack Morris, who had struggled in his previous appearances this year, worked the final three innings, allowing two unearned runs to pick up his first save.
“We had a lot of guys come through, picked us up and some freshman pitchers did a really good job,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “Today it was Bybee and Gage Wood.
“It was really good to see Zack Morris throw the ball better today. That team, offensively, they put up some decent numbers, but they’re really good against left-handed pitching, so we were a little nervous about that. But Zack came in and gave us three innings.”
Morris said he returned to a pre-pitch stance he used last year during a two-week stretch in which he didn’t pitch.
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“It definitely boosts the confidence, especially after not really getting any action the past two weeks,” Morris said. “I feel like that’s something that I was due for with the luck that I had the previous outings.”
Morris dropped his ERA from 14.21 to 9.64 with the outing.
Wegner launched a two-run homer to left-center field, his team-high eighth, through a stiff wind off 6-4 right-hander Jordan Hanson (0-1) to give the Razorbacks a 3-0 lead in the fifth inning.
“On my home run, it was an 0-0 count, just kind of left a fastball or a sinker up over the dish, was able to put a good swing on it and backspin it through the wind,” Wegner said.
UNLV Coach Stan Stolte said he was encouraged by Hanson’s start but the big freshman paid for his one big mistake.
“They’re good hitters, and get their pitch, and they can put the barrel to it pretty good,” Stolte said. “If you make a mistake on Arkansas, you usually pay for it.”
Wegner’s home run brought home shortstop John Bolton, who walked to lead off the fifth to extend his reached base streak to all 16 games in which he has played.
Arkansas scored its first run in the opening inning as Tavian Josenberger hit a first-pitch single, moved to third on Brady Slavens’ double and scored on Kendall Diggs’ fielder’s choice grounder.
Bybee got out of first inning trouble after Santino Panaro’s one-out single and Edarian Williams’ two-out double and threw an efficient 59 pitches through five scoreless innings.
To open the sixth, Jacob Sharp singled and Williams doubled to challenge the Hogs’ 3-0 lead.
Wood got out of the trouble with a soft liner and two strikeouts and was pumped up coming off the mound.
“He gets a jam shot on a breaking ball and then two strikeouts,” Van Horn said. “I would’ve been fired up, too. Hopefully he gained a lot of confidence there and can take that confidence with him going forward.”
Bybee, who had been dinged up by Grambling State in his previous start, dropped his ERA from 6.75 to 2.35.
“I just felt really good out there, felt really connected,” Bybee said. “All three pitches were in the zone, which obviously helps. Just had a good game plan and scouting report going into it.”
VIDEO: Van Horn, players recap Arkansas' 5-2 win over UNLV
Bybee said he and catcher Parker Rowland were in accord on the approach.
Said Van Horn, “He threw some good change-ups to some lefties. Got a few swings and misses there. I thought he spotted his fastball well to both sides of the plate. There was a couple of times we asked him to throw the fastball in and he did it. Got a strike or a strikeout and a jam shot there too.”
The Rebels scored two unearned runs in the seventh on Morris, who nearly got out of the inning unscathed. Gianni Horvat drew a leadoff walk and Panaro hit a one-out single. Morris got a fly ball out from Sharp, then Williams hit a slicing line drive to right field. Diggs, playing right field for the first time this season, tracked the ball to his left but it hit off his glove for a three-base, two-run error.
Third baseman Harold Coll made a diving stop to retire Austin Kryszczuk and get out of the inning.
The Razorbacks added a pair of insurance runs in the eighth, taking advantage of a one-out throwing error by the shortstop Horvat. Jace Bohrofen reached on the error then scored on Diggs’ opposite-field double into the left-field corner. Coll followed with a shot up the middle to bring Diggs home.
The Razorbacks open SEC play on at 6:30 Friday at Baum-Walker Stadium against Auburn.
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