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.
Razorback Baseball Notebook: Slavens' big game not enough
Arkansas first baseman Brady Slavens (17) celebrates in the dugout during a game against Vanderbilt on Thursday, May 18, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn.
University of Arkansas first baseman Brady Slavens extended his hitting streak to nine games with a hot night at the plate during the Razorbacks’ 10-8 loss to Vanderbilt at Hawkins Field in Nashville, Tenn.
Slavens went 3 for 4 with 2 runs scored and 1 RBI.
The senior from Olathe, Kan., crossed up the Commodores in his first at-bat, hitting a low-velocity single to the vacant left side of the Vandy infield against an exaggerated shift.
Slavens also doubled and scored on Peyton Holt’s double in the fourth inning.
“When he gets hot, he gets super hot,” Arkansas pitcher Hagen Smith said on the SEC Network broadcast during that inning.
Slavens entered the game 11 of 34 (.324) during the first eight games of his hitting streak.
Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn spoke about Slavens after he hit his 40th career home run Thursday.
“I feel like he’s swinging the bat as well as he has all year right now,” Van Horn said. “If you make a mistake, he’s taking advantage of it and hitting the ball out of the park or hitting the ball the other way. He hit two balls on the nose today and he just missed another one tonight.”
Peyton Holt’s three-run home run in the sixth inning was his second of the season and it elicited a Hog Call from the strong contingent of Razorback fans at Hawkins Field.
“Are you kidding me?” SEC Network analyst Chris Burke said after the junior brought home Caleb Cali and Brady Slavens.
Holt also had an RBI double in the fourth inning.
Later, speaking about what a story Holt has become, Burke added, “It’s incredible and it’s more than just the offense. Last night the defense was the difference.”
Arkansas middle infielders John Bolton and Peyton Holt were both dinged up while tracking down a looping soft liner by Enrique Bradfield Jr. into center field in the eighth inning. Bolton made the catch with the bases loaded, then popped up and threw home late to get tagging runner R.J. Austin at the plate. However, both players stayed down for a while.
Holt got up and was limping around on his right leg, while Bolton was favoring his left ankle. Bolton came out of the game and was replaced by Harold Coll.
Arkansas pitcher Brady Tygart continued his stair-step advancement in his return from an elbow strain with a solid four-inning start in which he earned a victory due to his pre-determined pitch limit.
Tygart allowed 2 runs — on consecutive solo homers by T.J. McKenzie and Enrique Bradfield Jr. in the third inning, Those were the only hits he gave up while throwing 62 pitches over 4 innings.
Since returning from his injury, Tygart has added one inning to each of his starts, which began with one inning 10-4 win over Texas A&M on April 28. He threw 20 pitches over two innings in a 14-2 run-rule win at Mississippi State on May 6 and 37 pitches over three shutout innings in a 3-1 loss to South Carolina last week.
Arkansas left-hander Zack Morris continued a recent string of strong outings with 3 scoreless innings that featured no hits and 1 walk with 6 strikeouts.
Morris faced only one batter over the minimum and he exited with Arkansas holding a 7-2 lead through seven innings. Morris has now thrown eight scoreless innings in his past three outings, dropping his ERA from 10.80 to 7.53 win that span.
Vanderbilt shocked the Razorbacks with an eight-run eighth inning against relievers Gage Wood, Cody Adcock and Parker Coil.
The big inning was capped by a three-run home run from Troy LaNeve, who hit his first homer in his first start of the season on senior night.
Earlier, T.J. McKenzie, a .148 hitter making his eighth start, hit his first homer of the season and first since last February.
Arkansas right fielder Jace Bohrofen broke out of a mini-slump with his first-inning home run, which sailed just by the right field foul pole.
The home run, Bohrofen’s team-high 14th, was looked at by the replay team in Birmingham and a quick review confirmed the call on the field of fair ball. However, the SEC Network crew remarked the ball appeared to be in view going in front of the foul pole before soaring beyond the fence.
Bohrofen entered the game in a 1-for-16 skid dating back to the start of the South Carolina series that had dropped his batting average to .345 from a height of .422 on April 12, 20 games earlier.
Vanderbilt starter Devin Futrell allowed a season-high 7 earned runs and 9 hits on 106 pitches during his 6-inning stint.
The left-hander’s previous high had been 5 earned runs in last week’s 6-2 loss at Florida. Prior to that, Futrell had allowed a high of 3 earned runs twice in his first 12 starts. His previous high in hits allowed had been 7 in a 10-5 loss at Tennessee on April 23. Futrell gave up seven runs in that game but only two of them were earned.
Gold star D
Vanderbilt outfielder Enrique Bradfield Jr. went high at the wall in dead center field to pull down a would-be home run by Kendall Diggs for the second out of the ninth inning.
Arkansas infielders John Bolton and Caleb Cali both made sterling defensive plays.
Bolton scooped a Davis Diaz grounder deep up the middle and made a powerful throw to first baseman Brady Slavens for an out in the first inning.
Cali ended the fourth with a nice play, showing off his arm after having to wait for a high chopper off the bat of catcher Jack Bulger.
While Arkansas right-hander Brady Tygart was getting a lot of swing-and-miss strikeouts, his counterpart, Vanderbilt lefty Devin Futrell was piling up the other kind.
Futrell had one strikeout the first time through the Arkansas order, but the second time through he got five strikeouts, all looking. Futrell finished with eight strikeouts, six of them looking.
The Razorbacks improved to 12-2 in weekend-opening games with Thursday’s 8-2 win over the Commodores. The only losses came in a home game against Alabama (12-1) on March 31 and on the road at Georgia (6-5) on April 20.
In game 2s on the weekends, the Razorbacks are now 8-6 following Friday’s 10-8 loss at Vanderbilt.
Arkansas is 10-3 in weekend game 3s, with the losses coming to Eastern Illinois (12-3) on Feb. 26, at LSU (14-5) on March 25, and at Georgia (9-8) on April 22. That record includes a 4-1 mark in rubber games with wins over Oklahoma State at the season-opening College Baseball Showdown.
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