NORTH LITTLE ROCK — No one is happier about the end of Arkansas baseball’s non-conference schedule than Dave Van Horn.
After winning their first eight, the Razorbacks limped to the finish line by losing three of their last four midweek games, capped by a disappointing 8-6 loss in 11 innings to Lipscomb at Dickey-Stephens Park.
Arkansas scored three runs in the eighth inning to tie it up, benefitting from two wild pitches and an error, but could never push anything else across and the Bisons eventually scratched across a pair of their own to pull off the upset in extras.
“Even if we would have won the game, we didn’t play good,” Van Horn said. “We didn’t play good at all — really, in any phase of the game. We didn’t pitch good, we didn’t field good, we did not drive in runs. … I mean, overall it was probably one of our worst games of the year, honestly.”
Despite a 23-21 overall record, Lipscomb is tied for second in the ASUN — behind only a Florida Gulf Coast team that’s spent time ranked in the top 25 this season — and came into the game with a No. 140 RPI.
As the game rolled on, the Bisons brought in their closer, left-hander Hayden Frank, and rolled with him to the finish. The Razorbacks, on the other hand, were on pitchers who were likely 15th and 16th in the pecking order before the season.
Frank threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing only three base runners (one hit, one walk, one HBP), while designated hitter-turned-two-way Ben McLaughlin struggled to throw strikes. He faced six batters and walked three of them, with the first two coming around to score what proved to be the game-winning runs.
It was so rough that he had to be pulled for freshman Sean Fitzpatrick, who made just his third appearance of the season to finish off the 11th. He was the ninth pitcher Arkansas used Tuesday night.
“(We) were facing one of the top lefties probably in their league and on their team, and they threw him 60 pitches,” Van Horn said. “They wanted to win. We wanted to win, but you have to make a decision. I’m not going to throw as many.”
It’s a particularly delicate situation for the Razorbacks, who have been ravaged by injuries this season. Not even including season-ending injuries to Jaxon Wiggins and Koty Frank, they’re dealing with multiple issues.
Van Horn indicated after the game that ace Hunter Hollan might get pushed back to Game 2 or 3 of this weekend’s Mississippi State series because he’s dealing with shin splints. Just as he got Brady Tygart back from injury, right-hander Dylan Carter went down with what sounds like a significant injury.
“It’s not good,” Van Horn said. “That’s all I’m going to leave it at. It’s not good.”
Needless to say, Arkansas is scraping the bottom of the barrel with its pitching staff, so Van Horn is more than happy to only be dealing with SEC games the rest of the way.
“There was a part of me that was glad there was only two left last week, because we don’t have enough,” Van Horn said. “We’ve got three games worth on the weekend. Until we get some guys healthy, we have just enough.”
Scoring in Bunches
Based on the first inning, it seemed like Arkansas baseball might be in store for a rare offensive outburst at Dickey-Stephens Park.
After walks by Jace Bohrofen and Ben McLaughlin, Harold Coll hammered an 0-1 pitch for a three-run homer. It was his third long ball of the year and traveled 428 feet, hitting the scoreboard in left.
The Razorbacks’ other three-run inning was almost the exact opposite of that, as all three runs scored without a player notching an RBI. With two outs and the bases loaded, McLaughlin scored on a wild pitch and Jayson Jones raced home when the throw from the catcher sailed over the pitcher’s head on a potential play at the plate.
That also put Peyton Holt — who pinch ran despite suffering an ankle injury over the weekend — on third and he was able to score on a wild pitch, too. Arkansas eventually had the go-ahead run in scoring position, but Bohrofen struck out to to stand him there.
“It was great that we scored three runs without doing a whole lot and tied it up. We had one of our best hitters at the plate with a runner at second, and he didn’t get a hit. That’s the way the game works sometimes. We had an opportunity to take the lead or win the game, and we didn’t get the hit.”
Coil Builds Off Save
The same pitcher who finished off the Razorbacks’ sweep of Texas A&M was back on the mound to start Tuesday’s midweek game.
Left-hander Parker Coil gave Arkansas two strong innings in his first start since March 14 against UNLV. He retired six of the seven batters he faced, working around a leadoff walk in the second.
“It’s good to see him go out there,” Van Horn said. “He was just pounding the zone, spinning it, throwing the changeup and spotting his fastball. I thought he did a really good job.”
It was the third straight solid outing by the freshman in the span of eight days, as he also threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings at Missouri State last Tuesday. He followed that up by earning his first career save by allowing only one run over the final 1 2/3 innings of Game 3 against the Aggies.
Throw in his two innings in North Little Rock and he’s posted a 1.42 ERA in 6 1/3 innings across his last three appearances, with opponents going just 4 for 20 (.200) against him.
Coil could have stayed in the game longer, but Van Horn said they got him out after 33 pitches so he could be available to pitch in the second and third games this weekend at Mississippi State.
Ledbetter Shines Close to Home
Perhaps the most encouraging thing to come out of the loss was the performance of right-hander Austin Ledbetter.
Pitching in front of a lot of friends and family, the Bryant native threw four scoreless innings Tuesday night, scattering three hits, two walks and one hit batter. It was the longest outing of the sophomore’s career.
“This was his best outing,” Van Horn said. “He pitched really well. It’s the best he’s thrown in a while.”
It was a very important outing for Ledbetter, who has struggled for much of this season after originally being thought of as a key arm. Van Horn actually left him off the 27-man roster last weekend, so he wasn’t available to pitch against Texas A&M.
“It got to me a little bit,” Ledbetter said. “I just always want to be there for my team and I know I’m good enough to go out there and compete with any team in the country.”
Asked if he’d be able to pitch this weekend at Mississippi State, Ledbetter said he’d “100%” be ready to go, but after throwing 55 pitches, it’d likely be Saturday or Sunday.
Ugly Outings by Freshmen
Where the game was lost was in a pair of abysmal outings by freshmen, as right-handers Christian Foutch and Ben Bybee failed to retire any of the seven batters they faced.
Their failure to get any outs really stretched the Razorbacks’ already-thin pitching staff
“The negative is we had two kids that didn’t get an out,” Van Horn said. “That’s really — when you have limited arms… I mean, we were out of pitching. That was our last pitcher. If that game gets tied, I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
Arkansas was still up 3-1 when Foutch entered the game in the fourth inning, but he issued a pair of walks and hit a batter to load the bases before Van Horn pulled him.
It was a very concerning outing because the Colorado native has now allowed 12 straight batters to reach over the span of four appearances, dating back to the final game of the Georgia series. He has walked six, plunked two and given up four hits, including a homer.
Five of those runners have gone around to score, giving him five earned runs without even a third of an inning. That’s led to his ERA ballooning from 3.27 following the first four outs he made in that game against the Bulldogs to 8.18.
“Probably confidence more than anything,” Van Horn said. “They didn’t hit him. He just hit a guy, walked a couple. What do you do? So now you go to Mississippi State wondering if can put him in the game. It’s a tough situation.”
Bybee gave up two hits and two walks in the sixth inning when it was still a tie game. That led to three runs for the Bisons.
Up Next for Arkansas Baseball
Tuesday marked the final non-conference game of the regular season for Arkansas baseball, which now has just nine SEC games remaining in 2023. That starts with a trip to Starkville, Miss., for a series against Mississippi State.
The Bulldogs do not have a midweek game leading up to that series, so they’ll come into the weekend with a 24-20 overall record that includes a 6-15 mark in SEC play. That is sixth in the West and 12th in the conference overall.
Friday’s game is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT and will be streamed on SEC Network-Plus.
Other Arkansas Baseball Tidbits
- With the loss, Arkansas baseball fell to 10-2 all-time at Dickey-Stephens Park. It has played one game at the venue annually since 2010, with the exception of 2020 and 2021. A full rundown of those games can be found below.
- As always, it was a packed house for the game, with an announced attendance of 9,346. The 12-game total for the venue is 112,017 — or an average crowd of 9,335.
- Caleb Cali, the Razorbacks’ hottest hitter of late, went 0 for 4 with two walks. That snapped his 13-game hitting streak, which was one shy of matching Jared Wegner’s season-long streak of 14 games.
- With two outs in the seventh inning, Jace Bohrofen reached via a hit by pitch. It’s the 15th time he’s been plunked this season, which is one shy of cracking the UA single-season list. Most recently, Zack Gregory was hit by 16 pitches last season.
- The home run by Harold Coll — which traveled 428 feet with a 104 mph exit velocity and 28.8 degrees — was the Razorbacks’ first in North Little Rock since Heston Kjerstad went yard in the eighth inning of the 2019 game.
- Right-hander Will McEntire pitched an inning and got a couple of quick outs before allowing a solo home run to center to Caleb Ketchup. It’s the 17th long ball he’s given up in 55 2/3 innings this season. However, replays indicated it should have been a double off the wall and not a homer, but replay was not available:
History of Arkansas Baseball at Dickey-Stephens Park
Dickey-Stephens Park opened in 2007 and is the home ballpark for the Arkansas Travelers, the Double-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners.
Of the 12 games held at the park, seven were decided by exactly one run, two were decided by two runs and another was a three-run game. The two outliers were a 5-run win over Memphis in 2011 and a 14-run win over Grambling State in 2019.
“Well it’s not our home park,” Van Horn said when asked about the games always being close in North Little Rock. “It’s a totally different park than ours. This is a huge ballpark. It’s a lot different feel, so it’s really a neutral site. The fans are unbelievable here, though, but it’s always close.”
- 2023: L, 8-7 (11 innings) vs. Lipscomb
- 2022: W, 2-1 (10 innings) vs. Central Arkansas
- 2019: W, 17-3 vs. Grambling State
- 2018: W, 7-6 vs. Grambling State
- 2017: W, 2-0 vs. Memphis
- 2016: W, 3-1 vs. ULM
- 2015: L, 5-4 vs. Memphis
- 2014: W, 3-0 vs. Mississippi Valley State
- 2013: W, 2-1 vs. Mississippi Valley State
- 2012: W, 6-5 (10 innings) vs. Louisiana Tech
- 2011: W, 7-2 vs. Memphis
- 2010: W, 5-4 (10 innings) vs. Louisiana Tech
Read about the case for more Arkansas baseball in central Arkansas here:
Arkansas vs Lipscomb Postgame Interviews
Arkansas vs Lipscomb Box Score
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