FAYETTEVILLE — On a campus that features arguably the top returning quarterback-running back tandem in the country and a pair of projected lottery picks, the best 1-2 punch might belong to the Arkansas baseball team.
Left-handers Hunter Hollan and Hagen Smith once again carried the Razorbacks to a big series-opening win Friday night by combining for all nine innings of their 5-2 victory over Tennessee at Baum-Walker Stadium.
Only one of the Volunteers’ two runs was earned, and that came on a leadoff home run to start the game. From that point on, they went just 5 for 32 (.156) with 13 strikeouts against the Arkansas duo, which has also done something similar in Game 1 wins over Auburn and LSU.
“(When) you’ve got these two guys to just dominate, we can win any game on a Friday night with those guys,” teammate Jace Bohrofen said. “I mean, good luck.”
It looked like the Razorbacks might have to deviate from their plan early on. Jared Dickey made solid contact on Hollan’s fourth pitch and it just snuck over the wall in right field. Then two of the next three Volunteers singled, with a rare outfield error putting runners on the corners.
Just before striking out Hunter Ensley to end the inning and limit the damage to only one run, Hollan was called for a balk that made it 2-0.
“I think he just gets into the flow of the game a little bit,” Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn said. “Sometimes it just takes pitchers a while to get warmed up, lathered up, whatever you want to call it. He did.”
Van Horn said they were hoping Hollan could pitch six innings, but that looked unlikely when he was sitting at 47 pitches through two. Instead, he found his rhythm and ended up needing only 54 pitches to get through the next four innings.
“Hunter didn’t have his command (early), but man, did he settle in,” Van Horn said. “He ended up throwing 100-plus, 100 pitches, right in there, but his best innings were really the fourth, fifth and sixth in my opinion.”
In six innings, Hollan was charged with two runs — only one earned — on five hits and one walk. He struck out six and finished with 101 pitches, the last of which was lined to right by Maui Ahuna to strand a runner on second.
He put one runner on in four of his final five innings, but Tennessee went 0 for 7 with runners on base.
“He’s got some deception and you can tell he loves to compete in his own unique way,” Tennessee baseball coach Tony Vitello said. “I say it jokingly, but all lefties are a little bit goofy. He did a nice job of mixing speeds as he always does. I thought our guys still had competitive at bats, put up some runs, but when you have an open door against a guy like that, you had better charge through it and we kind of went halfway through it.”
The only perfect inning Hollan threw was the top of the fourth, immediately following Arkansas scoring three runs to take a 3-2 lead.
“I knew once (Tavian) hit the home run, it was like, ‘Okay, I’m getting ahead and I’m going to attack right here,’” Hollan said. “Because 1-2-3, that changed the game. Once I went 1-2-3, the game was over. I just had to go two more innings and I know Hagen’s coming into the game, and he’s not going to get hit. That was really the momentum shift in the game, was getting the 1-2-3.”
The Razorbacks were prepared to go to right-hander Dylan Carter if needed, but their plan all along was to go straight from Hollan to Smith, just as they have before.
Smith started Game 2 against Ole Miss last weekend, but has otherwise come out of the bullpen since the start of SEC play. With the rest of the rotation up in the air, it would have been nice to have Smith available one of the next two games, but Van Horn’s mantra of “one game at a time” is what led to him using both of his top two arms in Game 1.
“If we have the lead and a chance to win the game, we’re going to go for it,” Van Horn said. “If we had a big lead or something we might not use Hagen, but that game was never in hand. There’s too much offense and firepower over there. A hit by pitch and an error and home run and the game’s tied, so you’ve just go to go for it.”
Once in the game, Smith was “lights out,” Van Horn said. He faced one over the minimum while earning his second save of the season.
Seven of the nine outs Smith recorded came via a strikeout and he didn’t allow a base runner until there were two outs in the top of the ninth inning. It was a vast improvement from his last outing, when he gave up four earned runs in five innings.
“Me and Coach (Matt) Hobbs tweaked something early into my bullpen just with my foot on the mound,” Smith said. “I got back into rhythm with my windup and I think that helped me throw strikes and have all my pitches working.”
The silver lining for Tennessee, though, is that it made Smith work a little bit. He needed 55 pitches to get through the final three innings and Van Horn said he doubted he’d ask him to throw a second time this weekend.
“He’s jumping at you off the rubber and the ball is jumping at you, too,” Vitello said about Smith. “I have watched video of him before and he absolutely buries some guys. I don’t know that he necessarily did that to us. Our guys competed. They just had nothing to show for it.
“He is one of the best arms in the league and knowing him and knowing Coach Van Horn, they are anxious to get the ball in his hands.”
In the three games Hollan and Smith pitched every inning, they’ve allowed only six earned runs in 28 innings, which equates to a 1.93 ERA.
Making Tennessee Pay
Just as they were in the midweek games against Little Rock, defensive miscues played a key factor Friday night.
The Razorbacks made an error of their own, but three costly mistakes by Tennessee proved to be more than it could overcome in the series opener.
Making a surprise start, right-hander Andrew Lindsey looked really good through the first two innings of the game. He worked around a bunt single to start the second and already had four strikeouts by the time the third inning rolled around.
“I thought we did a great job of fighting,” Van Horn said. “The first two innings, it looked like Lindsey was going to throw about 70 pitches and get a bunch of outs. … As a coach, you’re just hoping that we can wear him down a little bit because he was throwing the ball on the edges and spotting it up mid-90s, throwing a good cutter and breaking ball.”
Sure enough, that’s what happened. Parker Rowland fell behind 0-2 before eventually poking a single the other way for an opposite-field single to start the third. John Bolton should have grounded into a double play to erase the base runner, but Tennessee botched the opportunity.
Second baseman Christian Moore fielded the chopper up the middle, but his toss back to shortstop Maui Ahuna covering the bag ended up near the outfield grass. It was ruled an E6 and put runners on the corners for Tavian Josenberger.
The Kansas transfer put together an “outstanding” at bat, Van Horn said, fouling off a couple of pitches and working the count full before launching a 384-foot homer to right-center that gave Arkansas a 3-2 lead.
“He got him a fastball and he didn’t miss it,” Van Horn said. “He hit it hard. It was kind of a line drive home run that kind of stayed under the wind. The wind started dying down there in the third or fourth inning. It was the biggest swing of the game. It got us the lead.”
A throwing error by Moore put Brady Slavens on base to start the third inning and he came around to score on a bases-loaded double play by Rowland.
Bohrofen Stays Hot
The Razorbacks tacked on another insurance run in the fifth inning when Jace Bohrofen launched a two-out homer off the Hunt Center in right field. It’s the third straight game in which he’s hit a home run and his ninth long ball of the year.
Bohrofen said Tennessee had attacked him with inside fastballs his fist two times up, resulting in strikeouts. Considering new reliever Seth Halvorsen was known as a fastball pitcher, so Bohrofen went up hunting for one and got it.
“I feel really good at the plate, very confident right now,” Bohrofen said. “Just got to keep working counts and getting to hitters counts. Just keep getting my best swing off. The first two bats tonight I felt like the pitcher did a really good job of just keeping me off balance, and then that third at bat, I was just ready for a fastball and I put a good swing on it.”
It was the only hit in four at bats for Bohrofen, whose batting averaged dipped to .415 through 34 games. He is starting to garner some national attention thanks to his hot hitting — but he’s still mostly under the radar at this point.
Jared Wegner Injury Update
For the second straight game, starting left fielder Jared Wegner was out of the lineup because of a hairline fracture in his left thumb.
He was able to play as a defensive substitute in the ninth inning, but was not asked to hit during the game. Considered “50/50” earlier in the week, he will continued to be day-to-day the rest of this weekend.
“He’s feeling a little better,” Van Horn said. “He didn’t hit with the team in pregame. He kind of did some hitting on his own. Started feeling a little bit better, just swinging lightly. But felt like he could go out there, put that glove on and run and catch a ball. So we’ll see how it’s feeling tomorrow and take it one day at a time.”
Wegner has been one of Arkansas’ biggest offensive threats this season, slashing .351/.486/.739 with a team-high 12 homers and 44 RBIs.
Up Next for Arkansas Baseball
A few hours after the football team wraps up spring ball with its annual Red-White game, the Arkansas baseball team will try to clinch its series against Tennessee, with first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m. CT Saturday.
Both teams left the second and third game of the series as “TBA” when it comes to starting pitchers and neither coach definitively named a starter following the game.
Tony Vitello said right-hander Chase Dollander was “more than likely to start” for the Volunteers. He is a projected top-10 pick in this summer’s MLB Draft, but has struggled some this year and has a 4.19 ERA in 43 innings.
The most likely candidate to start for the Razorbacks is right-hander Will McEntire. He’s coming off a start in which he gave up only two runs in 4 2/3 innings after missing much of the week with the flu.
The game will be streamed on SEC Network-Plus.
Other Arkansas Baseball Tidbits
- The announced attendance was 10,562, which was the second-best of the season at Baum-Walker Stadium, behind only the Saturday game of the Alabama series that drew 10,713. “The fans were unbelievable tonight,” Dave Van Horn said. “It was packed. They were loud. They were into it. … It was a fun atmosphere.”
- Tavian Josenberger’s third-inning blast extended Arkansas’ streak to 30 consecutive games with a home run. The Razorbacks have also homered 32 of 34 games overall.
- Josenberger’s long ball had a 101 mph exit velocity and 28.9 degree launch angle, plus traveled 384 feet, according to the UA’s TrackMan system. Jace Bohrofen’s fifth-inning homer was a scorching line drive with a 104 mph exit velocity and 24.1 degree launch angle, helping it go 356 feet.
- Kendall Diggs went 2 for 3 with a pair of singles, a walk and a stolen base. He has now reached base in 25 consecutive games. The longest on-base streak of last season belonged to Robert Moore, who reached in 31 straight games.
- Oh yeah, this happened in the Hog Pen during the game:
Arkansas vs Tennessee Highlights
Arkansas vs Tennessee Postgame Interviews
Arkansas vs Tennessee Box Score (Game 1)
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