Just a day after a couple of bad breaks spiraled into a blowout loss, Arkansas baseball flipped the script to finish its weekend at the College Baseball Showdown on a high note Sunday afternoon.
The No. 6 Razorbacks scored as many runs as they allowed against TCU and cruised to a dominant 18-1 run-rule win over No. 11 Oklahoma State at Globe Life Field, finishing the prestigious event in Arlington, Texas, with a 2-1 record.
Arkansas opened the season with a tight 3-2 win over Texas on Friday, but was beaten soundly in an 18-6 loss to the Horned Frogs on Saturday, setting up what was essentially a rubber match against the Cowboys.
“You learn a lot about your team a lot times after a bad loss,” Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn said. “They showed a lot of — I don’t know the word I’m trying to use — I always thought we were tough, so I don’t really want to use the word toughness. I don’t question that one bit.”
It didn’t take long for Arkansas to put this one away. Much like what TCU did to them a night earlier when they couldn’t quite turn a couple of critical double plays, the Razorbacks made Oklahoma State pay for mistakes in the field, scoring five runs in the second and third innings.
In the second, Kendall Diggs and Jace Bohrofen got things started with back-to-back singles, the latter of which was deflected by first baseman David Mendham and scooped up by Roc Riggio. The second baseman quickly tossed it back and nearly got the out, but the bang-bang play went in favor of Arkansas and stood after a replay review.
Following a walk by Jayson Jones that loaded the bases and a strikeout by Parker Rowland, John Bolton put the ball in play with a ground ball to first. It was an RBI all the way, but should have been the second out of the inning. However, pitcher Bayden Root didn’t cover the bag, so Mendham had to try to take it himself.
The two players collided just after Bolton stepped on the bag first for an RBI single. That kept the bases loaded and turned Tavian Josenberger’s ensuing ground out into an RBI instead of the third out. After Peyton Stovall was plunked, Jared Wegner cleared the bases with a three-run triple.
“His backside triple with two outs and the bases loaded was a thing of beauty,” Van Horn said. “I would have loved a grand slam, but other than that, that was what I wanted to see, going the other way.”
In the third, it looked like the Cowboys would quickly get back in the dugout, but shortstop Marcus Brown booted a tailor-made 6-4-3 double-play grounder by Rowland that would have eliminated a leadoff single and ended the inning.
Instead, the error put runners on the corners to set up a sacrifice fly by Bolton, which would have been the third out had Brown managed to just get the force out at second. The Razorbacks weren’t done, though.
Josenberger ripped a double into the right field corner, Stovall drove in a pair of runs with a single up the middle and Wegner delivered the knock-out punch with a two-run homer that made it 10-0.
Had the Cowboys made just two plays — Root covering the bag and Brown turning the double play — they change the complexion of the game because Arkansas likely scores just one run.
The 18-run outburst was a continuation of Arkansas’ dominance against Oklahoma State. Including last year’s Stillwater Regional, the Razorbacks have scored 55 runs in the last four games in the series — an average of 13.8 per game. As a team, they’ve slashed .325/.456/.623 against the Cowboys, which gives them a team OPS of 1.079.
Strong Debut for Hunter Hollan
After emptying the bullpen in the aforementioned ugly loss to TCU, the Razorbacks needed a strong start from Hunter Hollan on Sunday and the left-hander delivered.
He consistently had runners on base, but avoided giving up a big inning. Oklahoma State mustered just one run on three hits and two walks in Hollan’s four innings of work. He struck out five and was credited with the win via scorer’s discretion even though he didn’t go five innings.
“I had a fastball and cutter working today, nothing else,” Hollan said. “I was just showing pitches. Really didn’t have my best stuff. I was having to battle a little bit, but when you have 10 runs in the third inning, it’s pretty easy to just settle down and pitch and throw to the catcher.”
Dave Van Horn said he thought Hollan got better after the first inning and that he could have come back out in the fifth inning. That was actually the plan before the top half of the frame lasted a long time, plus it became apparent the run rule would come into play and the game would last only seven innings, so he wanted to turn things over to the bullpen.
“We know how good he can pitch, especially when he’s on,” Van Horn said. “He can throw his secondary pitches in any count. He’s got command and when you have command and you can control the baseball, you can do some damage if you’re right and feeling good. I think today he felt good.”
Hollan put multiple Cowboys on base in three of his four innings, but two of those instances were somewhat strategic because they involved four-pitch walks of Nolan McLean after Roc Riggio reached in front of him. He followed up both of those by retiring clean-up hitter David Mendham.
“I wasn’t going to let Riggio and McLean beat us,” Hollan said. “I wasn’t going to let them get the bats rolling. So after that, I was just going to stay away and with the left-handed first baseman, I knew I could get him, so once I got down, I wasn’t going to let their team get some fire and think they had a chance.”
Gage Wood Bounces Back in Big Way
The coaching staff clearly thought highly of freshman Gage Wood coming into the weekend, otherwise they wouldn’t have called on him in a tight spot Saturday night.
Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, the right-hander’s collegiate debut went as poorly as anyone could have imagined. Wood’s first pitch was hit the other way for an RBI single and then he walked back-to-back batters, the latter of which came with the bases loaded. He was pulled without recording an out.
There was a lot less pressure this time, but Arkansas got Wood back on the mound in the final inning of Sunday’s win and he emphatically slammed the door. He struck out Nolan Schubart, Ian Daugherty and Jaxson Crull in order, ending his perfect outing with seven straight strikes.
“He’s thrown nothing but strikes since he’s been here and today, we wanted to get him back out there if he felt okay and he told us he did,” Van Horn said. “The first hitter, he goes 3-1 and you’re thinking, ‘Oh boy,’ then he goes 3-2, strikes him out. We kind of looked at each other and said, ‘He’s going to do nothing but throw strikes now,’ and that’s what he did.”
Van Horn Empties the Bench
By the end of Sunday’s blowout, only one Opening Day starter remained in Arkansas’ lineup — the hot-hitting Jared Wegner. Everyone else was either a replacement or first-time starter, as freshman Jayson Jones and JUCO transfer Parker Rowland got the nod at third base and catcher, respectively.
Jones, who homered as a late-game replacement Saturday, officially went 0 for 2 with a strikeout, but he drew three walks. Rowland was solid behind the plate and went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts while notching a pair of RBIs via a bases-loaded walk and sacrifice fly.
Perhaps more impressively, four Razorbacks — Mason Neville, Peyton Holt, Reese Robinett and Hunter Grimes — came off the bench and notched their first career hits.
“I feel like we have a little depth position player-wise and we showed that when we got some guys off the bench,” Van Horn said. “They went in there with a fearless attitude and swinging the bat.”
Van Horn was particularly impressed with Robinett’s at bat because he never flinched when Oklahoma State brought in left-handed reliever Drew Blake. The left-handed hitting freshman worked the count full before singling through the right side.
Neville, who debuted as a ninth-inning defensive replacement against TCU, reached in both of his plate appearances. He hit a single and drew a walk. Holt flied out to center his first time up, but delivered an RBI single the next time he stepped into the box. Grimes singled and used his speed to score on a shallow fly ball.
That sacrifice fly actually came off the bat of Harold Coll, giving him an RBI, while Ben McLaughlin grounded into a fielder’s choice in his lone plate appearance.
Absurd FloSports Graphic
No one would blame you for not paying to subscribe to FloSports this weekend or even for mentally checking out of Sunday’s blowout early. Those still paying attention late in the game, though, might have caught a glimpse of one of the more absurdly incorrect graphics in the history of baseball broadcasts.
Here it is in all its glory:
That’s right. According to FloSports, the Razorbacks won the national championship in 2010 and then rattled off four straight from 2014-17. Making that accomplishment even more impressive, they finished runner-up — in addition to winning it all — in 2010, 2014 and 2015.
As if that wasn’t enough, Arkansas apparently won the Big 12 Tournament in 2014, 2016 and 2021 — an impressive feat for any team, but especially one in the SEC.
That’s is the kind of reporting you can only get from FloSports. (Let this also serve as a reminder to cancel your subscription.)
Up Next for Arkansas Baseball
For the first time since May 15, when they dropped a seven-inning rubber match against Vanderbilt, the Razorbacks will take the field at Baum-Walker Stadium for a real game Tuesday afternoon.
The 2023 home opener is a midweek matchup with Grambling, which went 1-2 at the HBCU Classic this weekend. Playing at Minute Maid Park, the Tigers lost close games to Prairie View A&M (7-5) and Southern (4-3) before crushing Mississippi Valley State 14-4 on Sunday.
First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. CT and the game will be streamed on SEC Network-Plus. As of Sunday night, Dave Van Horn said he was unsure who the Razorbacks would start on the mound.
Other Arkansas Baseball Tidbits
- Arkansas has now won at least two of its first three games for 22 straight seasons. That encompasses the entire Dave Van Horn era and dates back to 2001, when the Norm DeBriyn-led Razorbacks beat Missouri Southern in the opener before dropping two straight to UTSA.
- Sunday was Van Horn’s 798th win as the Arkansas baseball coach. That means he’ll almost certainly hit the 800-win milestone in next weekend’s series against Eastern Illinois.
- Creighton transfer Jared Wegner capped his stellar weekend with a 2-for-4 performance with a triple and home run. He also reached on a walk and hit by pitch. In his first three games with the Razorbacks, Wegner went 6 for 11 (.545) with four extra-base hits and eight RBIs.
- Oklahoma State shortstop Marcus Brown is actually from Arkansas and went to Shiloh Christian in Springdale. He notched the Cowboys’ lone RBI with a sacrifice fly, but struck out in his other at bat and also committed the error that led to five unearned runs.
Arkansas vs Oklahoma State Postgame Interview
Arkansas vs Oklahoma State Box Score
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