FAYETTEVILLE — The most notable thing to come from Tuesday’s game didn’t even involve an Arkansas player who saw the field against UCA.
Following the Razorbacks’ tight 6-3 midweek win over the in-state Bears, head coach Dave Van Horn indicated to reporters that star closer Brady Tygart’s return to the mound was imminent.
The right-hander hasn’t pitched since suffering a UCL sprain on March 1, but could pitch in Arkansas’ series at Georgia, which begins Thursday.
“There’s a possibility,” Van Horn said. “He’ll probably be on the 27-man (roster). That’s the key. You see him on there, you’ll probably see him throw.”
Adding Tygart back to the mix would bolster an Arkansas pitching staff that only recently seems to have turned a corner in the wake of losing projected ace Jaxon Wiggins (Tommy John) before the season and top middle reliever Koty Frank (torn lat) within the first three weekends of the season.
Even without those pitchers, Arkansas is 30-7 overall, a unanimous top-5 team and has a 1.5-game lead in the SEC West standings
In his absence, the Razorbacks have used sophomore left-hander Hagen Smith out of the bullpen and freshman right-hander Gage Wood has established himself as a bonafide SEC closer. Two other freshmen — right-handers Ben Bybee and Christian Foutch — have also emerged recently.
Assuming he comes back strong, Tygart would give Arkansas another proven option out of the bullpen for the stretch run.
The Razorbacks have also had to shuffle their lineup because starting left fielder Jared Wegner, who leads the team in home runs (12) and RBIs (44), is out with a hairline fracture in his left thumb.
There had originally been optimism that he might be back in time for last weekend’s series against Tennessee, but Van Horn eventually revealed that he’d be out 3-4 weeks so his thumb could properly heal.
After meeting with a specialist, it was determined that he’d need surgery, but that doesn’t impact his timeline to return.
“He had surgery yesterday (to) put a couple pins in it, just to hold the bone in place — just normal, standard procedure,” Van Horn said. “We’ll just keep him in shape and we’re hoping to get him back…Vandy for sure, maybe South Carolina. We’ll see.”
Wild Seventh Inning
Speaking of the actual game on Tuesday, it all boiled down to a wild seventh inning.
UCA got things started with a single by Evan Hafley and then Noah Argenta tied it up at 3-3 with a two-run home run into the left field bullpen. Considering Arkansas had stranded eight runners on base through the first six innings, it started looking like the Bears might have a chance to pull off the upset.
However, with some help, the Razorbacks answered with three runs of their own in the bottom of the seventh.
“You’re kind of going, ‘Man, maybe this isn’t going to be our might,’” Dave Van Horn said. “Then we hit a ball up into the sky and they can’t see it and you saw what happened after that. Next thing you know, we’ve got our two runs back, plus one more.”
The fly ball Van Horn reference was off the bat of Kendall Diggs and should have been a relatively easy play for center fielder Drew Sturgeon. He lost the ball, though, and it fell to the ground for a double.
Caleb Cali followed with a sharp grounder that third baseman AJ Mendolia likely should have fielded, but instead booted it. It could have easily been ruled an error, but Cali was credited with a single.
Instead of being out of the inning and in the dugout with 4 2/3 scoreless innings of relief, Cade Fenton had to pitch to more Razorbacks and they eventually made him pay.
With two outs, Brady Slavens pinch hit for Jayson Jones and hit a chopper up the middle. UCA was positioned perfectly, with shortstop Reid Bowman fielding it on the right side of the second base bag.
It should have been the final out of the inning, but Bowman initially looked to get the force on Cali running to second before changing his mind and firing to first. By that time, though, it was too late and Slavens beat the throw, giving him an infield single.
The play went to replay review, but was upheld thanks to Slavens’ hustle — which was actually threefold for the Razorbacks, according to Van Horn.
“What I saw was some guys running down the line as hard as they could,” Van Horn said. “There were three plays, hustle plays, that I think really helped us.”
On top of Slavens’ hustle, Cali had to get a good jump and be close enough at second that the shortstop didn’t just take it himself for the third out of the inning. Then there was Diggs, who scored from second despite the ball never leaving the infield.
Because there were two outs, he was off on contact and never slowed down, sliding into home safely before Evan Hafley’s throw came in and went to the backstop.
“I was just locked in on Coach Thompson, watching what he was doing,” Diggs said. “He never stopped waving me home. I kept going, trusted him, and it ended up working out.
That put the Razorbacks up by one, but they tacked on an insurance run when Hudson Polk drew a bases-loaded walk. UCA baseball coach Nick Harlan didn’t like the ball four call and briefly argued it — and he might have had a case, as the UA’s TrackMan system indicated it should have been strike three. A wild pitch brought in the final run of the game.
Those three runs ended up being the difference in a matchup Van Horn was actually worried about coming off a sweep of Tennessee.
“This was a tough game,” Van Horn said. “We had to talk to the guys a little about showing up and playing hard. We played a tough game on Sunday… Today was kind of a trap game a little bit with us heading out to Georgia tomorrow.”
Cody Adcock Regains Trust
Among the Razorbacks who actually saw the field Tuesday, none helped themself as much as Cody Adcock. The right-hander got the starting nod for a second straight midweek and turned in a much better outing than what unfolded last week.
After allowing eight base runners and needing 70 pitches to get through four innings against Little Rock, Adcock put only four Bears on base and got through four innings on 51 pitches.
“I’d say my slider was much better today than it was last week,” Adcock said. “Consistently missed down with it last week, and today I landed it in the strike zone a lot more than I have in the past. I thought that was a big key to it. I landed a couple of changeups to lefties and struck two guys out on it. I think that’s a big thing, but just staying in the zone with my off-speed stuff is what I need to do.”
Two of the base runners Adcock allowed Tuesday came on back-to-back hit by pitches with one out in the second inning. The first of those eventually came around to score the only run he allowed.
“I missed twice big arm-side and hit two guys,” Adcock said. “One of them ended up scoring. Honestly, that’s not acceptable for me. I thought I did alright, but I can’t allow that to happen because if that happens on a weekend, we might lose that game.”
The goal of starting Adcock in the midweek game was for Arkansas to get him going again after struggling his last few SEC appearances. It sounds like that’s what happened.
Because his pitch count was so low, he could have continued to pitch against UCA, but Arkansas replaced him in the fifth inning because of the upcoming conference series at Georgia.
“If we’d have left him in much longer he wouldn’t have been able to pitch until probably Game 3, which is Saturday,” Van Horn said. “If we didn’t play until Friday, we might have left him in another inning or two. … I think he gained confidence and we gained confidence in him and that was good to see.”
Up Next for Arkansas Baseball
The Razorbacks hit the road this weekend for a three-game series at Georgia. It will be the first of back-to-back Thursday-Saturday series for Arkansas, with Game 1 scheduled for 6 p.m. CT Thursday on the SEC Network.
After Clemson on Tuesday, the Bulldogs are 20-17 overall. That includes a 4-11 mark in SEC play, which is last in the East and 13th overall in the conference.
Other Arkansas Baseball Tidbits
- For the third straight year, the Razorbacks reached the 30-win mark within the first 37 games of the season. They are now 30-7 overall and 11-4 in SEC, which is exactly what their record was at this point last year. Two years ago, they started the season 30-6 and 11-4, with their 37th game being a series-opening win at South Carolina.
- With the win, Arkansas baseball improved to 4-0 all-time against UCA and 16-2 all-time against in-state opponents. Both of those losses were against Little Rock.
- For the first time since Feb. 21 against Grambling, the Razorbacks failed to hit a home run. Their 32-game streak with at least one long ball was believed to be the longest in the country. It’s just the third time in 37 games Arkansas didn’t homer, with the season opener against Texas being the only one on a weekend.
- UCA brought the tying run to the plate, but Austin Ledbetter eventually finished off the ninth inning without allowing a run to notch the save. He is the seventh different player to earn a save for the Razorbacks this season.
- Ben McLaughlin has now hit safely in all four games since entering the line up in place of the injured Jared Wegner. Including his 2-for-4 performance Tuesday, he’s 6 for 11 (.545) over that span.
- Kendall Diggs extended his on-base streak to 28 games with a leadoff single in the fifth. The last time he failed to reach was Feb. 25, when he went 0 for 5 in Game 2 of the Eastern Illinois series.
- After going hitless for the second straight game, finishing 0 for 4, Jace Bohrofen’s batting average dipped to .388 — the first time it’s been below .400 since March 25. He did, however, get hit by a pitch for the 13th time this season. He needs three more to crack the UA single-season top-10 list.
- Former Arkansas outfielder Trey Harris didn’t start, but did enter the game as a pinch runner for Evan Hafley in the seventh inning. He ended up scoring on Noah Argenta’s game-tying home run. It was just his 11th appearance of the season.
- Harris did not stay in the game. Instead, Jack McLaughlin — the twin brother of Arkansas’ two-way player Ben McLaughlin — entered at first base and struck out in his lone at bat.
Arkansas vs UCA Highlights
Arkansas vs UCA Postgame Interviews
Arkansas vs UCA Box Score
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