Bats Go Cold as Tide Knock Arkansas from Perch + More from Game 3 Loss

Arkansas baseball, Arkansas vs Alabama
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics / Alabama Athletics

It took nine weeks, but Arkansas baseball has finally suffered its first series loss of the season.

The No. 1 Razorbacks couldn’t get anything going offensively Sunday and lost their rubber match against No. 25 Alabama 5-0 at Sewell-Thomas Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

It was the first time Arkansas has been shut out since its season-ending 2-0 loss to Ole Miss in the College World Series semifinal back in 2022.

After a business-as-usual Friday night win on the back of Hagen Smith, it looked like the Hogs would be in for another routine weekend – but the Tide responded to take the last two games.

“I’m proud of the guys, they played hard,” Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn said. “You know that it’s not going to go your way every weekend. This game, it can eat you up a little bit. We just got to move on, got to get better.”

Here are a few other takeaways from Sunday’s loss…

Offensive Woes Doom Diamond Hogs

The story of Game 3 was the brilliance of Alabama lefty Zane Adams, who scattered four hits across eight scoreless innings. The freshman was able to pitch to contact throughout the game, striking out only five Razorbacks but keeping his pitch count low. Adams finished the day with just 97 pitches, averaging 12.1 per inning for an efficient outing.

“It felt like nothing could go wrong,” Adams said. “I wasn’t thinking about where I was throwing the ball, I wasn’t thinking about anything, I was just letting it go and it was going where it needed to go. I just kind of got in a groove.”

Adams entered the day with a 4.85 ERA, which made his complete shutdown of the No. 1 team in the nation even more of a surprise. For the second day in a row, the Razorbacks struggled to get much of anything going offensively.

“He threw a lot of strikes and kept some guys off balance,” Van Horn said. “We let some good pitches go by and swung at bad pitches. Got ourselves out a lot. But give him credit. He was ahead in the count, and we didn’t get him early. We hit some balls hard early and they went at people. I think our hitters got a little frustrated, pressing a little bit.”

Arkansas has relied on its pitching dominance throughout the season and produced tremendous results so far, but you won’t beat anybody scoring zero runs in a game.

Razorback batters went just 4 for 31 (.129) and their usually-elite plate discipline was ineffective, only drawing two walks on the day. The powerful Arkansas lineup had just one extra-base hit all day on a double from Jared Sprague-Lott.

Two of those hits, including that double, came in the sixth inning when it was still a 1-0 game. However, they didn’t result in a run because of a base running error by Sprague-Lott.

He was on second base when Ben McLaughlin hit a single through the left side. It would have been an RBI had Sprague-Lott not initially hesitated – a move that Van Horn said was a “mistake.”

“You’ve just got to think the play out a little bit before the pitch,” Van Horn said. “The ball was hit to the left of the third baseman from a left-handed hitter, so it was kind of sliced on the ground. He hesitated because he thought he was going to field it and he was going to run into an out.

“The worst thing that could happen is you run into an out. If he fields it, he’s going to throw him out at first anyway. The ball was to the fielder’s left. Just run, if he fields it, see what happens. But he had no chance to score really when he stopped and then tried to start again.”

Across the entire weekend in Tuscaloosa, Arkansas went 2 for 14 (.143) with runners in scoring position and managed only eight total runs – and five of those came in the first three innings of the series.

“This weekend was more about timely hitting,” Van Horn said. “We didn’t get too many of them and that’s kind of what cost us. Alabama got some big two-out hits that kinda did it to us, put us away a little bit. You worry about it, but I think we are going to be fine. We need to get back, relax and play good baseball.”

Bullpen Unravels in Crunch Time

The day after wasting a quality start from Mason Molina, Brady Tygart spun five innings of one-run ball to continue the dominance of Arkansas’ starting rotation.

He pitched out of trouble quite a bit because he did allow five hits, two walks and a hit by pitch. The right-hander also notched three strikeouts in what was his longest outing since March 2 against Murray State.

“I thought he battled, competed,” Van Horn said. “Really did not have his breaking ball for the first three innings. We were a little concerned, because he couldn’t land it – maybe one time in three innings. Then the last couple of innings he started throwing a little more around the plate, got a strikeout or two with it. He was able to get us through five just down a run. Hey, that’s all you can ask. He did his job.”

Koty Frank entered in relief and retired the side in order for a clean sixth inning, but after that, the wheels came off for the nation’s top-ranked team.

The seventh inning started with Frank plunking the leadoff batter, who then moved up to second on a sacrifice bunt. Then, nine-hole hitter Bryce Eblin delivered the decisive blow with a two-run blast over the right field wall. That’s when you could feel the air slipping out of Arkansas’ tires.

After a double by Gage Miller on the very next pitch, Dave Van Horn made the call to the pen and turned to Will McEntire, who got the Hogs out of the jam.

But the Tide kept the pressure on in the eighth inning. After a pair of base hits and a sacrifice fly, the lead was extended to 4-0. Speedy center fielder TJ McCants then stole third, and scored when an errant throw from true freshman catcher Ryder Helfrick went sailing into the outfield.

“Bryce Eblin’s swing was a big one to put us up three,” Alabama baseball coach Rob Vaughn said. “Those two runs in the eighth were huge. It lets you breathe a little bit and lets you get (closer Alton Davis II) in the game with a little bit of a cushion.”

Uncharacteristic mistakes plagued the Razorbacks’ defense throughout the weekend, as evidenced by the walk-off ever in the 10th inning of Game 2, when Jake Faherty mishandled a dribbler and overthrew first base – allowing the winning run to scamper home.

Good defense has always been a trademark of Dave Van Horn’s teams, so it was a shocking way for Arkansas to go down on the road. Entering the weekend, Arkansas’ .981 fielding percentage ranked 11th nationally, and the Diamond Hogs had gone more than 40 consecutive innings without an error before they unraveled in Tuscaloosa.

Bad Time for Arkansas Baseball to Stumble

The SEC gauntlet is always difficult, but the Razorbacks have picked a particularly unfortunate time to start dropping games. After cruising through the first month of conference play, Arkansas is in the midst of back-to-back challenging road series at Alabama and South Carolina with two midweek games against Texas Tech sandwiched in between them.

The Hogs don’t have the luxury of a “get-right” game against a smaller school, with a quick turnaround as they face off with the Red Raiders on Tuesday night – which will mark the noteworthy matchup of Hudson White and Mason Molina against their former school. Then, another road series awaits in a hostile environment in Columbia, S.C.

It feels like Arkansas always has that one opponent in each sport that they can’t seem to get a read on. The men’s basketball team has Vanderbilt and Alabama appears to have become that pesky matchup in baseball.

Despite rarely finishing near the top of the SEC, Alabama has consistently been a thorn in the Razorbacks’ side over the last few years. Arkansas is now 8-8 vs. the Crimson Tide since 2019, a low mark compared to its 91-39 record against the rest of the conference over that stretch.

The loss to Alabama means there will almost certainly be a new No. 1 team in the polls on Monday, and No. 2 Clemson’s series loss to NC State adds an interesting wrinkle into that determination. After an impressive sweep over Vanderbilt, No. 3 Texas A&M is the most likely candidate to be the new king of the hill.

Arkansas certainly won’t have an easy slate to try and bounce-back from this loss, but there is plenty of time for the Hogs to get right as it reaches the halfway point of conference play. There’s still a long way to go in the season and, as we all know, college baseball is all about getting hot at the right time.

Arkansas vs Alabama Highlights (Game 3)

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Postgame Interview

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Arkansas vs Alabama Box Score (Game 3)


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