Schlossnagle Comments on Epic Pitchers’ Duel That Ended With a Dud + More from Game 1 loss vs Texas A&M

Arkansas baseball, Texas A&M baseball, Arkansas vs Texas A&M
photo credit: Texas A&M Athletics

It took 11 innings and more than three hours, but a run finally scored in the Arkansas vs Texas A&M series opener.

Unfortunately for the No. 3 Razorbacks, they wasted another Hagen Smith gem and ended up on the wrong end of an epic 1-0 pitchers’ duel against the No. 5 Aggies at Blue Bell Park in College Station, Texas.

With midnight quickly approaching, what was left of the rain-soaked crowd of 6,976 — which waited through a 1.5-hour delay at the start of the game — was already on its feet and erupted when Will McEntire’s 3-1 pitch to Ted Burton missed low to bring in the winning run via a walk-off walk with two outs in the 11th.

“I thought Teddy put together a really professional at bat, it looked like an older player,” Texas A&M baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “I think the crowd, the 12th man, played a huge role. There’s no doubt about it. Guy couldn’t hear the signs, probably got sped up a little bit.”

Over the first 10 innings of the game, Arkansas (42-11, 19-9 SEC) didn’t walk a single batter. It ended up walking three of the final five.

It started with right-hander Jake Faherty issuing a full-count walk to Gavin Grahovac. The always dangerous Jace LaViolette followed with a single that put runners on the corners for Texas A&M (43-10, 18-10).

The Razorbacks turned to left-hander Parker Coil next and he got a huge strikeout of Braden Montgomery for the second out, but after he fell behind 2-0 against Jackson Appel, they opted to intentionally walk him to load the bases.

Although Burton has hit .328 against righties and .184 against lefties this season, Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn turned to McEntire instead of sticking with Coil. He likely wanted his most veteran arm on the mound, especially considering he had only 15 walks in 49 innings coming into the night.

“Myself and Coach Hobbs, we didn’t think he’d walk him,” Van Horn said. “If anything, they were going to make contact. … Yeah, just the way it is. Sometimes it doesn’t work out.”

McEntire actually got ahead with a first-pitch breaking ball that Burton took for a strike, but his next four pitches were low and not particularly close to the strike zone.

“I wanted to see his cutter first so I kind of let one get over the plate and I also saw him spike a few in warmups, so I was like, ‘Okay, he’s got to beat me with three,’” Burton said. “I was really selective and just tried to get his stuff up and it worked out.”

The result was a rare one-run loss for Arkansas, which is now 10-3 in such games, with all three losses coming in extra innings. It also keeps Texas A&M’s hopes alive for an SEC West title, which it can only win with a sweep of the Razorbacks.

Wasted Opportunities for Arkansas

The story of the night for Arkansas, as it has been several times this season, was its inability to drive in runners when given the chance.

Even though they were shut out, the Razorbacks had 11 base runners in 11 innings, with all but one — who was wiped out by a double play — being stranded. They went just 2 for 19 (.105) with runners on base, including 0 for 9 when they were in scoring position.

“We just couldn’t get that big hit,” Van Horn said. “We just couldn’t make contact with a runner at first and third, one out. That was disappointing. We needed a big hit and we didn’t get it.”

That first-and-third, one-out situation Van Horn mentioned came in the 10th inning and seemed to be setting up for Arkansas to take the lead.

Ty Wilmsmeyer reached on an error when the first baseman booted a grounder and then Peyton Holt hit a chopper over the first baseman for a single. Not only was their fastest runner just 90 feet away, but the Razorbacks had two of their best hitters coming up in Peyton Stovall and Jared Sprague-Lott. Both of them struck out chasing a pitch in the dirt, though.

Arkansas also had a few other opportunities. In the 11th, Ben McLaughlin reached on a one-out double and it looked like Hudson White might give it the lead with a two-out RBI, but left fielder Caden Sorrell made a great catch while crashing into the wall to rob him of the go-ahead hit.

Earlier in the game, Stovall reached on an infield single and Sprague-Lott followed with a walk, but Wehiwa Aloy grounded into a double play and McLaughlin grounded out to strand a runner at third.

“We hit some balls hard that were caught, we lined out to short, hit a couple balls to the wall, maybe three,” Van Horn said. “Left fielder made a nice play on the one that kept us from taking the lead. But at the same time, there were a couple of at-bats with runners in scoring position that were very frustrating because some guys didn’t do a very good job of handling the pitch selection. Trying to hit the ball out front. Not trusting themselves enough.”

He may not get as much love as his counterpart in an Arkansas uniform, but Texas A&M starter Ryan Prager was a large part of the Razorbacks’ struggles.

The left-hander scattered five hits and one walk across seven scoreless innings while striking out nine. It was his longest outing of the year and lowered his season ERA to 2.47.

“it’s probably one of the best (starts by Prager) considering who he’s matched up against,” Texas A&M baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle said. “Because you know that any pitch, at any time…one run’s going to feel like four. You’ve got to match him and he did that.”

Texas A&M also burned its closer, using left-hander Evan Aschenbeck for the final four innings. He struck out four and gave up four hits on 46 total pitches. Schlossnagle said it was unlikely that he’d be able to pitch again this weekend.

Sensational Start by Smith

The “him” Ryan Prager had to match was Hagen Smith, who further solidified himself as the favorite to win National Pitcher of the Year with another dominant outing.

Arkansas’ ace struck out five of the first six batters he faced and gave the Razorbacks six scoreless innings in which he allowed only two hits — one of which was a bunt single — and racked up a whopping 14 strikeouts.

“A lot of fastball and slider today,” Smith said. “Just kind of what Huddy (White) saw and what we saw on the scouting report. We just kind of saw how that kind of translated into the game so that’s what we went with.”

Smith’s 11th strikeout of the night, which came when Ali Camarillo looked at strike three for the second out of the fifth inning, was the 346th of his career. That moved him past Nick Schmidt for first place on the UA’s all-time list.

“it’s awesome,” Smith said. “I obviously would have hoped to get that with a win, but It’s super cool to think about and hopefully we keep going.”

The Aggies sent 21 batters to the plate against Smith and only two of them made solid contact against Smith. The first was a line out by Caden Sorrell to end the fifth and the other was a two-out double by superstar Jace LaViolette, who got a 3-1 fastball and drove it over Peyton Holt’s head.

During the top of the third inning, after Smith struck out Hayden Schott looking for his fifth strikeout, Texas A&M baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle did an in-game interview on ESPN2 and spoke glowingly about the guy mowing down his team.

“In 35 years, I’ve faced plenty of really good lefties, but I don’t remember a starter with this kind of arm and stuff,” Schlossnagle said. “That last pitch to Schott, holy cow, that shouldn’t even be legal.”

The performance lowered Smith’s season ERA to 1.52 in 77 innings. He’s averaging nearly two strikeouts per inning, with 150 total, and is holding opponents to a minuscule .135 batting average.

“It’s been great having him in our program,” Van Horn said. “He’s been a starter, he’s been a closer, he’s been a middle guy. He’s done a little bit of everything and he’s been good at all of it. Tonight was just another example of how good he is. I mean, he gave us a chance to win a game. Didn’t give them much.”

Up Next for Arkansas Baseball

The Razorbacks will try to bounce back in Game 2 of the series, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT and will be nationally televised on SEC Network.

Right-hander Gage Wood (3-1, 3.03 ERA) will get the ball for Arkansas. It’ll be the Batesville native’s second career start, but first in SEC play. In his first start, he threw three scoreless innings against Missouri State on April 30.

“I’m excited for him,” teammate Hagen Smith said. “It’s awesome to see him go out there and do that. He started a midweek game and did really good and he’s been pitching really well. I’m really excited to watch him.”

Texas A&M has yet to officially name a starting pitcher, but head coach Jim Schlossnagle told reporters it’d “probably” be left-hander Justin Lamkin (2-2, 5.47 ERA). He has struggled his last two times out, giving up eight earned runs on eight hits and one walk in just 4 2/3 combined innings.

With a win, Arkansas would not only even the series, but clinch the SEC West title. A loss would set up a winner-take-all finale on Saturday. The Razorbacks have won at least a share of four of the last five division titles.

Other Arkansas Baseball Tidbits

  • If there was one silver lining in the loss, it was that Arkansas had already clinched a top-4 seed in next week’s SEC Tournament. Kentucky’s series-opening win over Vanderbilt erased the slim possibility of Georgia jumping the Razorbacks in the seeding. That means they’ll get a bye into the double-elimination portion of the event, which begins Wednesday.
  • Arkansas pitchers combined for 20 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings. It’s the sixth time this season the Razorbacks have had at least 18, which was the previous single-game school record. Thursday’s total is now tied for third on that list, as Arkansas had 25 in 13 1/3 innings against Oklahoma State and 23 in nine innings against Oregon State.
  • After Hagen Smith came out of the game, Arkansas got a perfect inning from Christian Foutch, 2 2/3 scoreless innings from Gabe Gaeckle and one out each from Stone Hewlett, Jake Faherty and Parker Coil, with Faherty being charged with the lone run.
  • It has been a tough season for Missouri transfer Ty Wilmsmeyer, but he actually reached base three times out of the 9-hole for Arkansas. He went 2 for 4 with an opposite-field single and a bunt single, plus reached on an error.
  • For just the second time this season, Kendall Diggs did not start an SEC game for Arkansas. He was also held out of the opener against Mississippi State last week, as he deals with a nagging shoulder injury. Unlike that game, when he eventually entered as a pinch hitter, Diggs remained on the bench Thursday.
  • Assistant coach Bobby Wernes is not with the team this weekend, as he remained back in Fayetteville for the birth of his child, according to a UA spokesperson. Clay Goodwin, the Director of Baseball Operations, filled in for him as the Razorbacks’ first base coach.

Arkansas vs Texas A&M Highlights (Game 1)

Postgame Interviews

Arkansas vs Texas A&M Box Score (Game 1)

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