FAYETTEVILLE — Sometimes in blowouts, it can be difficult to point to a single play as the key moment of the game. That wasn’t the case for Arkansas baseball on Saturday.
With one leap, Jace Bohrofen not only robbed Wright State of a grand slam, but deflated any real hope it had of evening their series with the Razorbacks, which cruised to a 12-6 win in front of the largest Baum-Walker Stadium crowd of the young season.
The Raiders had Arkansas starter Will McEntire on the ropes when leadoff man Justin Riemer stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the second inning. He smacked an 0-1 pitch to right and, because the wind had shifted a few minutes earlier, the ball kept carrying.
Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn admitted he didn’t think it had any chance of going over the fence when the ball left the bat, but that’s exactly what would have happened if Bohrofen hadn’t made the Razorbacks’ best defensive play of the season so far.
It was such an impressive catch that it took the No. 3 spot on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays the following morning.
“I took a step back, opened up to the right and I was like, ‘Alright that’s going to be close to the track, so I’ve got to go find the wall,’” Bohrofen said. “So I got to the wall and I thought I was just going to catch it on the wall, and then I saw it kind of kept drifting and I was like alright I’m about to go up and get it. So I went up and stuck my glove up there and I caught it and I came down and I knew I had it.”
Instead of trailing 4-2 and considering their bullpen options, the Razorbacks maintained their 2-0 lead and carried the momentum into the bottom half of the inning by putting up another five runs.
Had the ball left the park, McEntire would have been at 43 total pitches and already be charged with four earned runs, similar to when TCU jumped on him early the first weekend of the season. Needless to say, he might have been the most excited about Bohrofen’s catch.
“I was going crazy on the mound,” McEntire said. “I told him I owe him dinner.”
Bohrofen has been one of the Razorbacks’ most consistent offensive threats, with a 1.169 OPS through 10 games, and went 2 for 3 with an RBI on Saturday, but he was really worth five total runs to the Razorbacks because of his robbery in the field.
“He drove in some runs with his bat, but also saved us four with his glove,” Van Horn said.
Jumping on Gongora
Even though he is the Game 2 starter, Sebastian Gongora is widely considered Wright State’s top pitcher. A left-hander who’s listed at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, multiple outlets view him as the Horizon League’s top prospect in the upcoming 2023 MLB Draft.
Gongora entered the game with a 1.80 ERA and .147 opponent batting average and was coming off a solid performance against Kentucky, in which he earned the win.
The Razorbacks jumped all over him, though. A home run by Peyton Stovall and an RBI single by Jace Bohrofen bookended a stretch of five straight batters reaching base, resulting in a 2-0 lead.
“We got after a pitcher that has had a lot of success this year,” Van Horn said. “I felt like we were all over him. We were on his fastball, laying off his breaking ball and took some really good swings and got his pitch count up.
“We only scored two runs, but I think we gained a lot of confidence in that first inning. I don’t know when he hurt his back, if it was in the first inning or locked up after the inning, but I would have liked to have seen him come back and how we were going to handle it.”
It honestly could have been worse because the inning started with a questionable call that went against Tavian Josenberger and then Jayson Jones struck out and Hudson Polk grounded out to leave the bases loaded.
That proved to be the only inning for Gongora, as he was removed before the start of the second inning because of an apparent injury. He was charged with two earned runs on three hits and two walks.
“Going into the game, we knew that we had to really execute against his fastball,” Caleb Cali said. “We weren’t going to let that beat us early on in the game. We were going to make him play off of his breaking ball, if he was going to go longer than that.”
Stovall, Wegner Do It Again
Back in the 2-hole after hitting fifth the last two games, Peyton Stovall didn’t miss a beat. As mentioned above, it was his solo home run that opened the day’s scoring. In the third inning, Jared Wegner hit a two-run homer.
It is the third straight game both of them has homered.
“They’re both swinging the bat really good,” Van Horn said. “They’re hitting just about everything that’s thrown out them — breaking balls, fastballs. Jared’s gone opposite field, pulled the ball. Peyton’s hit them in the alley, hit them down the line.”
Stovall finished the day 2 for 4 with a walk and two RBIs, as he drove in another run with a single the very next inning. The sophomore has had multiple hits in each game this week, going 8 for 14 with seven RBIs.
Wegner has been hot since the start of the season and leads the team in all three triple crown categories, hitting .444 with five home runs and 18 RBIs, plus has an incredible 1.535 OPS through 10 games. The Creighton transfer also has more walks (10) than strikeouts (7) and has scored a team-high 16 runs.
“His BP is unbelievable, but I think that kind of goes back to his routine,” Bohrofen said. “He’s in there every single day, he’s doing his tee work, he’s doing his routine and that kind of makes his swing get to where it needs to be come BP and game time.”
Cali Starting to Heat Up
Dave Van Horn told reporters after Friday’s game that he felt like third baseman Caleb Cali was finally back. He had homered in back-to-back games, so it wasn’t exactly a groundbreaking statement, but he further proved his coach’s point in Game 2 of the series.
The JUCO transfer went 2 for 4 with a walk and two RBIs, making him 5 for 10 since his miserable 0-for-12 start to the season that included a seven-strikeout weekend in Arlington.
“Obviously the first weekend was a struggle for me, but it’s baseball,” Cali said. “You’ve got to move past things pretty quickly, or you’re not going to be successful. Obviously it’s been really fun to get stuff rolling now.”
Saturday’s postgame marked the first time Cali has talked to the media since that rough start and he revealed that the turnaround is the result of some minor adjustments he made with the coaching staff.
“I’ve just been working a little bit extra with the coaching staff, just trying to perfect a few little things,” Cali said. “Maybe I was doing something wrong, I was pulling off the ball the first weekend. I got back to my right-center approach and it’s been working out. I’m seeing the ball pretty well lately.”
Another Solid Outing for McEntire
When he sat down at the interview table Saturday evening, Will McEntire glanced down at the box score in front of him and voiced his displeasure with the eight hits he allowed a few hours earlier.
Despite giving up those hits and issuing three walks, the right-hander still managed to get through five full innings with minimal damage against Wright State.
“I just think when your offense gets ahead it’s good to pitch to contact, try and get some quick innings,” McEntire said. “I just gave up a little too much contact today, too much hard contact.”
McEntire was ultimately charged with three runs, two of which were earned, while striking out six. Those strikeouts contributed to his pitch count rising to 95, prompting Arkansas to make a change in the sixth. It also didn’t help that four Raiders worked the count full against McEntire.
The Razorbacks had hoped to get six innings from McEntire in order to preserve the bullpen, but a couple of long innings led to him lasting just five.
“The thing was, they weren’t scoring, but he was throwing a lot of pitches,” Van Horn said. “He was full count on everybody. Foul ball, foul ball, out, walk, base hit or whatever happened. It’s just too many pitches. He’s more of an attack you, get ahead of you, pitch to contact type guy. Strikeouts are great, but try to get weak contact. That’s what we’d rather see.”
Since back-to-back disastrous outings to start the season, McEntire seems to be finding his footing. Including his start last week against Eastern Illinois, he’s now given up only three earned runs in 9 2/3 innings, leading to his ERA dropping from 22.50 to 6.17.
Van Horn said he’s not quite there yet, but McEntire is close to regaining the magic he carried throughout the postseason last year. He was particularly locked in after taking a line drive off the leg, as he struck out the next two batters on six total pitches and got out of the inning with another strikeout.
“I thought McEntire wasn’t real sharp early,” Van Horn said. “Honestly, the last couple of hitters after he got hit in the leg, to me, that was the best he threw the ball. I don’t know, I’m going to have to kick him in the leg or something before I put him out there.”
Up Next for Arkansas Baseball
For the second straight weekend, the Razorbacks will head into their series finale with a chance to sweep. They’re hoping for a different result this time, though, as Eastern Illinois managed to salvage Game 3 last Sunday.
Left-hander Hunter Hollan will get the nod for Arkansas, while Wright State has not announced its starter. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. CT Sunday and the game will be streamed online on SEC Network-Plus.
(Click here to read our Game 1 recap for the Arkansas vs Wright State series.)
Other Arkansas Baseball Tidbits
- After struggling mightily in his first two outings of the season, right-hander Austin Ledbetter gave Arkansas three strong innings out of the bullpen. He allowed only one hit and struck out two while not giving up a single run, lowering his ERA from 33.75 to 10.38. “I made a comment after the game, kind of pumped him up, that’s the pitcher we need,” Van Horn said. “He could take a middle relief role, maybe even a midweek starter role. I mean, there’s different things there we could do. He’s versatile. He’s a good athlete. I like having him in the middle of the diamond. Bottom line is, you’ve got to throw strikes, and that’s what he did today.”
- Getting the start at designated hitter, freshman Jayson Jones launched his second home run of the season in the sixth inning and added an opposite-field double to lead off the eighth. That came after he struck out with the bases loaded in the first inning. “Looked like, to me, he grabbed a little bit of an attitude in the middle of the game like he had enough and it was time to do something, and he did,” Van Horn said. “That was really good to see.”
- Sophomore right-hander Jake Faherty made his season debut in the ninth inning and it went poorly, as he retired only two of the five batters he faced, walked three and was called for two balks. He also left the game with an apparent arm injury. “I don’t know what is wrong with him,” Van Horn said. “I was going to take him out. So I think he wasn’t feeling right.”
- Through 10 games, the Razorbacks have already scored 96 runs and hit 20 home runs as a team. At this point last season, they had scored only 55 runs and hit just eight home runs.
Arkansas vs Wright State Highlights
Arkansas vs Wright State Postgame Interviews
Arkansas vs Wright State Box Score
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