Hogs’ Lapse in Sizzling Play Forces the JMU Social Media Team’s Hand + More from Game 3 Loss

Hudson White, Arkansas baseball, Arkansas vs James Madison
photo credit: Craven Whitlow

FAYETTEVILLE — Officially, Arkansas made only one error Sunday afternoon. It made several more mistakes than that, though, and they proved costly.

The result was the No. 3 Razorbacks losing their first game of 2024, falling to James Madison 7-3 in Game 3 of a four-game series at Baum-Walker Stadium.

“They just played better than us today and they deserve to win,” Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn said afterward.

It is the first time James Madison has beaten a ranked opponent since 2017, when it knocked off No. 11 Coastal Carolina, and its first against a top-10 foe since 2007, when it beat No. 3 Virginia. The latter of those was the highest-ranked team the Dukes had ever beaten, so Sunday’s win over Arkansas matches that.

Even though it was just one game and came after the Razorbacks won the first two games, James Madison was feeling pretty good in the aftermath. The Dukes even had a special graphic they shared immediately after the game went final:

Of course, the ‘W’ made out of bacon would have stayed in the James Madison social media team’s drafts had Arkansas simply played clean baseball Sunday. Alas, it has nearly 400,000 impressions on Twitter.

Fresh off a “sizzling” run-rule win in Game 2, the mistakes started early. Hudson White, who led off with a double, got picked off at second for the second out of the first inning.

“That was frustrating because you have a chance to score a run, grab the lead, maybe a little momentum,” Van Horn said. “Who knows what kind of inning we would have had there. I know we scored a couple, but we might have had a real big inning… Just little things that can’t happen at this level.”

Van Horn also mentioned being frustrated with Ty Wilmsmeyer getting thrown out trying to steal second to end the second inning, but what really irked him came in the top of the seventh.

With the bases loaded, Ryan Dooley hit a shallow fly ball to center. Wilmsmeyer caught it for the first out and then fired a throw home. It looked like it might have a chance to get Ike Schmidly at the plate, but the throw was cut off by Jack Wagner, who then threw to third to try to get Mike Mancini tagging up. The throw went out of play, though, allowing Mancini to score and moving Fenwick Trimble all the way to third.

Instead of there potentially being two outs and runners on the corners in a 3-2 game, the Razorbacks quickly found themselves in a 5-2 hole. A ground out by Brendan O’Donnell would have ended the inning, but instead drove in another run to make it 6-2.

“You practice one way and you have communication and verbals and different things on cutoffs and relays and that’s what you gotta go with, whether it’s right or wrong,” Van Horn said. “They’ve gotta get corrected.”

Luckily for the Razorbacks, it was just the third game of a 56-game regular season and there’s plenty of time to make those corrections. One loss, even to a mid-major program, isn’t the end of the world, either.

Last season, Arkansas dropped one game to Eastern Illinois and still won the SEC regular-season title. The year before that, it lost series openers against both Illinois State and Southeastern Louisiana, but reached the College World Series semifinals. Even the 2018 national runner-up team lost games to Cal Poly, San Diego and Kent State during non-conference play.

UPDATE – to see the recap of Hogs’ Game 4 win, go here:

~Projected Key Source of Hogs’ Offense Heats Up + More Takeaways from Game 4 Win~

Wasted Opportunities

Arkansas had base runners all over the diamond early on Sunday, but struggled to convert the chances into runs.

In fact, 12 of the first 19 Razorbacks reached base via hits or walks and only two of them came around to score. Both of those happened in the first inning and were made possible by a high fly ball falling in left field that probably should have been caught.

Included among the other 10 base runners were the aforementioned plays where Hudson White was picked off and Ty Wilmsmeyer was caught stealing. Another was wiped out by a double play in the third.

The Razorbacks also looked like they’d get a leadoff base runner in the fourth when Ross Lovich hit a line drive to right, but he was thrown out trying to stretch the single into a double. Van Horn was okay with that decision, though.

“I didn’t have a problem with that at all,” Van Horn said. “He made the outfielder make a play and he made a perfect throw, so hats off to them. It happens. Sometimes you’ve got to take a chance here and there.”

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Razorbacks twice came up empty with the bases loaded.

The first of those happened in the fourth inning and Arkansas had its preseason All-SEC selection at the plate in Kendall Diggs. He even got a fastball down the middle, but he didn’t square it up, resulting in a fly out to right.

Lovich, a transfer from Missouri, was up the second time and he got jammed, popping out to the second baseman in shallow right to leave them loaded.

It was a stark contrast to James Madison, which turned its bases-loaded situation into four runs in the seventh inning, breaking a 2-2 tie.

“Really what I saw was that we failed to get a couple big hits, they got a couple of big hits,” Van Horn said. “They put together a four-run inning. We needed to somehow find a way to get out of that inning, maybe only giving up two.”

Vogatsky Shuts Down Arkansas

The man on the mound who got James Madison out of both bases-loaded jams was right-hander Joe Vogatsky.

Probably the Dukes’ best arm, he had a team-best 3.34 ERA last season and actually got taken in the 14th round of last year’s MLB Draft, but opted to return to school as a senior – a rarity in college baseball.

Even though he’s the team’s closer, James Madison baseball coach Marlin Ikenberry said they worked on building him up over the offseason so he could work extended innings after pitching only 29 2/3 across 21 appearances in 2023.

That’s why he felt comfortable turning to Vogatsky with two outs and two on in the fourth inning.

“I didn’t want to go to him in that leverage situation, but we talked about it before the game that if we have got to get them early, let’s get them early,” Ikenberry said. “He did an unbelievable job.”

Vogatsky walked Hudson White to load the bases before getting Kendall Diggs to fly out, marking the start of nine straight Razorbacks retired by the right-hander.

He showed some signs of fatigue in the seventh and even gave up a run, but escaped further damage by getting Ross Lovich to pop out with the bases loaded. When the dust settled, Vogatsky had thrown 4 1/3 innings in which he gave up the lone run on two hits and three walks while striking out four.

“He did a really good job keeping us off balance, working both sides of the plate — going hard in, soft away,” White said. “He did a good job.”

The Razorbacks were aware of Vogatsky coming into the series and knew he was waiting in the bullpen if James Madison got a chance to steal a game.

“He’s their best guy,” Van Horn said. “He kind of throws a high-carry fastball that stays on plane. He’s got a good breaking ball. He threw a lot of pitches. You know they were trying to get to a point yesterday where they could get him in and obviously Friday they wanted to have a chance to win the game. When they had that opportunity today, they jumped on it.”

Assessing Mason Molina’s 1st Start

One of the biggest transfer portal acquisitions of the offseason in all of college baseball was Arkansas adding former Texas Tech ace Mason Molina.

The left-hander finally made his debut with the Razorbacks on Sunday and, at least for a few innings, was as good as advertised.

He allowed two runs on three hits and three walks while striking out nine before reaching his pitch count after just 3 2/3 innings. His 72nd and final pitch was a double by Wyatt Peifer that drove in two runs.

“Things were going good, early,” Molina said. “Probably threw too many pitches here and there, but overall, I wasn’t too upset about how I threw. Obviously, pitch count and the walks are probably something we can work on. The guy made a good swing on that double, so I think it’s just something we can kind of work on and take to the next outing.”

Based on his preseason outings, command was somewhat of a concern for Molina, but he did a pretty good job against the Dukes. Two of his three walks were to Fenwick Trimble, their best hitter, and he was clearly pitching around him.

Nine of his 11 outs came via strikeouts, which is even more impressive considering James Madison had struck out just 18 times in its first 17 innings.

“I think we stuck to the scouting report pretty good,” Molina said. “We do a pretty good job, I think, of knowing where their holes are and what we can get them out with.”

However, the length of Molina’s outing was disappointing because Van Horn said he was hoping to get five innings out of him.

“His pitch count got up a little bit and when he got behind that’s when they got the big hits,” Van Horn said. “You’ve got to give (James Madison) credit. They fouled off a lot of pitches, they’re hard to strike out and that’s what really happened with Mason on his pitch count. They fought him.”

Freshman Debuts

Three freshmen made their collegiate debuts for the Razorbacks on Sunday.

The first of those was Nolan Souza, a touted infielder from Hawaii. He got the start at second base and went 1 for 4 with a double and one strikeout.

Souza’s first at bat didn’t result in a hit, as his line drive was caught by the center fielder, but it had an exit velocity of 103 mph. He hit the ball even harder his second time up and this time, his 108 mph line drive got over the left fielder’s head for a double.

“I know that he swung the bat good and I felt good about the way he competed up there,” Van Horn said. “Good first outing for him.”

The other two debuts were on the mound, with right-handers Gabe Gaeckle and Tate McGuire making their first appearances out of the bullpen.

A top-100 recruit, Gaeckle was electric for two innings. He was consistently throwing 97-98 mph and needed only 22 pitches to retire six of the first seven batters he faced, with a two-out single being the only blemish.

Things went south for Gaeckle in his third inning of work, but it was largely because James Madison turned to small ball. The Dukes got a pair of bunt singles sandwiched around a walk to load the bases and end his outing. All three runners eventually scored, giving him three earned runs.

“Gaeckle’s first outing, throwing strikes for the most part,” Van Horn said. “I thought he threw the ball well. They started getting on his fastball a little bit because he got behind in the count. That’s when they got their hits.”

Arkansas turned to McGuire in the eighth inning and he got off to a great start, striking out Jacob Steinberg on a 94 mph fastball. However, things unraveled after that.

He retired only one of the next four batters, issuing two walks and plunking one despite being up 1-2 or 0-2 against each of them.

“McGuire just got a little wild,” Van Horn said. “He just couldn’t finish them off. He’d get to 1-2 and next thing you’d know it was 3-2, foul ball, ball four and we had to go get him.”

Up Next for Arkansas Baseball

The Razorbacks won’t have to wait long for a chance to bounce back, as they’ll host James Madison for one more game Monday afternoon. The finale of the four-game series will start at noon CT and be streamed on SEC Network-Plus.

Because the Dukes are flying commercial and have to catch a flight home out of XNA, there is a curfew for Monday’s game. No inning can start after 3 p.m.

Freshman left-hander Colin Fisher is slated to start for Arkansas. He is one of four or five pitchers Dave Van Horn said would be available — a number that doesn’t include sophomore Ben Bybee because he’s sick.

James Madison will counter with right-hander Casey Smith, a junior with 7 2/3 career innings.

Follow along here:

Other Arkansas Baseball Tidbits

  • Right-hander Jake Faherty made his season debut Sunday, inheriting a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the seventh inning. Despite allowing all three runners to score and giving up an unearned run, he didn’t pitch that poorly. He had Fenwick Trimble down 1-2 and jammed him with an inside fastball, but the James Madison star managed to still put it in play for a single. Each of the next three batters were retired, but two of them drove in runs in the process.
  • Arkansas has started a different player in left field each game – Jayson Jones on Friday, Will Edmunson on Saturday and Ross Lovich on Sunday. Lovich went 1 for 3 with a walk.
  • James Madison got an insurance run in the ninth inning when Brendan O’Donnell crushed a 424-foot home run into the Hog Pen. It had an exit velocity of 109 mph.
  • Ike Schmidly has entered each of the last two games as a pinch hitter for James Madison. He is the brother of Arkansas walk-on long snapper Max Schmidly. In fact, Ike, Max and their other brother — Eli, a golfer at Charlotte — are triplets. Schmidly is 0 for 3 with a walk this weekend.

Arkansas vs James Madison Highlights (Game 3)

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Arkansas Baseball Postgame Interviews

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Arkansas vs James Madison Box Score (Game 3)


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