SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — When he approached a group of reporters after Tuesday’s game, Dave Van Horn joked that they could have made the two-hour trip on the Arkansas baseball team bus.
After all, injuries have ravaged the Razorbacks this season and led to them using a slew of backups and guys playing out of position in their 8-4 loss to Missouri State at Hammons Field.
Of the nine spots in the lineup, only two — Caleb Cali at third base and John Bolton at shortstop — were filled by regular starters at their normal positions and it resulted in Arkansas’ losing streak reaching four games.
“You can use whatever lingo you want — you can say we’re just trying to survive, we’re just trying to get through the next couple of weeks until we get everybody back,” Van Horn said. “We’re not hanging our head or not thinking we’re any good. We know we can play. We’re just playing with guys that haven’t been a part of the combination that got us to 30 wins coming into tonight.”
The good news, though, is that the situation is improving.
Brady Tygart, a preseason All-American who has been out since March 1 with a UCL sprain, will be on the 27-man roster and return to the mound this weekend against Texas A&M, Van Horn confirmed after the game. He even indicated he could start one of the three games.
Van Horn also gave an encouraging update on Dylan Carter, who was withheld from Saturday’s loss to Georgia because of soreness. Arguably the Razorbacks’ most reliable arm, the right-hander should be available Thursday — which is why he didn’t throw Tuesday.
“We’ve used him a lot and we didn’t want to hurt him,” Van Horn said. “We just felt like the other day he was sore. He’s a lot better now. He’s actually feeling good.”
In the field, the Razorbacks rested second baseman Peyton Stovall, but Van Horn said he’d be back in the lineup this weekend. Catcher Parker Rowland didn’t start Tuesday, but came off the bench and caught the final two innings. After missing the Georgia series with back issues, he is also expected to return to the starting lineup Thursday.
Unfortunately, left fielder Jared Wegner is still out with a broken thumb, with the South Carolina or Vanderbilt series targeted for his return, and center fielder Tavian Josenberger missed the midweek matchup because of a hamstring injury he suffered against Georgia.
Van Horn said Josenberger had an ultrasound and MRI to double-check what was good news for the Razorbacks: It’s just a “Grade 1” strain and not a tear for Josenberger.
“Now it’s just a matter of healing up,” Van Horn said. “I don’t know a timeline on that. Don’t want to hurt it again. If he hurts it again, his season’s probably over. So we’re going to have to just really let him talk to us and we told him to be really honest and we’ll figure it out. We’ll slow-play it if we have to.”
With two outfielders out with injuries, the Razorbacks have scrambled for solutions. Jace Bohrofen has gone from right to left and now to center. They had already moved designated hitter and converted infielder Kendall Diggs to right field, too.
On Tuesday, Brady Slavens filled in for Wegner by playing left field for the first time since he was a true freshman at Wichita State.
“He knew a couple days ago this was going to happen,” Van Horn said. “Just trying to figure out how to get some bats in the lineup with all the bats that are hurt… That’s one reason I did it, just to see it and give us an option. Running out of options.”
Big Inning Dooms Hogs
As for the game itself, the Razorbacks lost because of a huge third inning by Missouri State.
Most of the damage was done with senior Zack Morris on the mound, as the left-hander received starter Cody Adcock to start the frame.
He got off to a solid start, striking out Nick Rodriguez, but then walked Spencer Nivens and gave up a single to Mason Hull to put runners on the corner. Zack Stewart followed with an RBI single that tied the game, but it looked like his flair into left should have been caught.
In another case of “the ball will find you,” Brady Slavens — in his first game playing left field in four years — got a bad read on it and couldn’t make the catch. It may have still been a sacrifice fly, but it would have been the second out and a strikeout of Cody Kelly would have ended the inning with the score tied 2-2.
Instead, it turned into a disastrous inning. Taeg Golbert poked an 0-2 pitch the other way for a double down the right field line that drove in two runs and Cam Cratic hit a 1-2 pitch into right-center for an RBI single.
That was it for Morris, but he was charged with another run when right-hander Austin Ledbetter entered and promptly gave up a two-run home run to Anthony Socci — also in a 1-2 count — to make it 7-2.
“The issue with that inning was all of those big hits were with two strikes,” Van Horn said. “Those are mistakes that you can’t make, especially when you’re facing a team that can hit.”
Five of the six runs were credited to Morris, who saw his ERA climb from 7.88 to 10.26. To say it has been a disappointing season for the team captain would be an understatement. He came into the season with a 3.07 ERA, but has now allowed as many earned runs (19) in 16 2/3 innings this year as he had across 55 2/3 innings in his first three seasons combined.
Trey Ziegenbein’s Revenge
Arkansas didn’t manage anything offensive over the middle third of Tuesday’s game, as Trey Ziegenbein retired all nine batters he faced in the fourth through sixth innings. The right-hander struck out three of them and earned the victory.
It was likely a gratifying performance for Ziegenbein because he originally signed with the Razorbacks out of high school, but after requiring two Tommy John surgeries, they dropped his scholarship in the summer before his freshman year.
He ended up taking the JUCO route before landing at Missouri State, where he’s been a key bullpen arm since 2020.
Ziegenbein’s first chance at revenge actually came in last year’s game. Although his team won, he was charged with three runs — only one of which was earned — in 1 2/3 innings. This time around, not only was he on the winning side, but his outing was, literally, perfect.
Bybee Bounces Back
No one has had a worse outing than the one freshman Ben Bybee experienced Saturday at Georgia. The right-hander inherited a bases-loaded jam in the ninth inning gave up a game-tying grand slam and walk-off home run on back-to-back pitches.
It was only three days before Bybee got an opportunity to pitch again and he didn’t show any signs of lingering effects from that disastrous ninth inning.
“Obviously it’s tough,” Bybee said. “Not fun to go through, but it’s a tough game and you’ve got to get over days like that and flush it, as hard as it might be, and focus on the next task at hand.”
Bybee struck out the first batter he faced and ultimately retired six of seven Bears in two scoreless innings of work. The only base runner he allowed came on a one-out walk in the eighth. He responded to that by striking out Missouri State leadoff man Nick Rodriguez and getting Spencer Nivens to line out.
Dave Van Horn spoke glowingly about his freshman afterward, telling reporters that he was proud of how Bybee bounced back.
“We wanted to get him on the mound,” Van Horn said. “Whenever something like that happens, we need to get him through that and over it and moving onto the future. I think he did a good job tonight.
Those two scoreless innings followed another really solid outing by a freshman.
Left-hander Parker Coil inherited a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the fourth and would have gotten out of it without allowing any of those runners to score, but shortstop John Bolton lost a pop up in shallow right and second baseman Peyton Holt had to run over and make the catch. Because his momentum was going the other way, Missouri State managed to tag up and turn it into a sacrifice fly.
After that, though, Coil got a fly out to limit the damage. He did give up a pair of hits in his first full inning of work, but the Razorbacks doubled up the runner at third on a line out to short. Granted it needed a diving catch by Jace Bohrofen in center, but Coil’s best inning was his last one, as he retired the Bears in order.
“He got behind, but he also made some adjustments and his fastball was his best pitch tonight,” Van Horn said. “He was throwing hard. I don’t know. I liked his confidence out there. I thought he threw the ball well.”
Coil was officially credited with 2 2/3 scoreless innings. It was his longest outing since pitching 3 2/3 in a start against Army back on March 7 and the first scoreless outing of more than an inning in his career.
Both relief appearances were encouraging to Van Horn, as the Razorbacks are still looking for another pitcher or two to step up and help on the weekends.
“You just saw Ben Bybee throw two really good innings and Coil maybe gained a little bit of confidence tonight — he’s moved ahead of some people,” Van Horn said. “So we may lose tonight, but it may help us win on Saturday or hopefully in the tournament and down the road. We’ve got to get these guys ready.”
Up Next for Arkansas Baseball
The Razorbacks return to Baum-Walker Stadium for a three-game series against Texas A&M beginning Thursday. Game 1 is set for 7 p.m. CT and will be televised on ESPNU.
Much like Arkansas, the Aggies will limp into Fayetteville after a midweek loss, as they lost 9-2 to Sam Houston on Tuesday. However, they have won their last four SEC series and enter the weekend with a 25-16 overall record, including a 9-9 mark in conference play.
Other Arkansas Baseball Tidbits
- With the win, Missouri State improved to 8-7 in the series since 2015. That includes matchups in the 2015 Fayetteville Super Regional (Arkansas won 2 of 3) and the 2017 Fayetteville Regional (Missouri State won 2 of 3).
- Right-hander Cody Adcock started a midweek game for the third straight week and gave the Razorbacks two innings. He allowed only one run — a leadoff home run by Nick Rodriguez — on two hits and two walks while striking out two and throwing 45 pitches.
- Spencer Nivens came into the game hitting a team-high .369 for Missouri State, but went 0 for 3 with two walks in Tuesday’s game. He was one of only two starters who failed to get a hit for the Bears, with the other being Cody Kelly.
- Getting the start at second base, Peyton Holt struck out twice, but also hit an RBI triple and was hit by a pitch in a 1-for-3 day at the plate. In limited opportunities this year, he’s slashing .308/.400/.577 — giving him a .977 OPS in 26 at bats.
- Jace Bohrofen’s 20-game on-base streak came to an end with an 0-for-4 day at the plate, but Kendall Diggs drew a leadoff walk to start the game to extend his on-base streak to 32 games.
- Caleb Cali hit the ball hard each of his four at bats, but it resulted in only one hit. That was good enough to extend his hitting streak to 10 games, during which he’s 17 for 36 (.472).
Arkansas vs Missouri State Box Score
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