FAYETTEVILLE — One of the craziest games of the year turned on an ejection and resulted in a much-needed win for the Arkansas baseball team Saturday afternoon.
Already a tense game, things went off the rails in the seventh inning when Alabama coach Brad Bohannon was ejected and mocked the Hog Call on his way off the field. Moments later, Tavian Josenberger hit a go-ahead two-run double and the Razorbacks eventually won 9-6 to even the series at Baum-Walker Stadium.
“He stayed on a breaking ball just enough and kept it just inside the foul line,” Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn said. “All of a sudden we had the lead. It was a very tough situation. An emotional game, a big game for us. As you could tell, it had to be a big game for them as well. It was Saturday in the SEC. It can get a little crazy.”
That last sentence was probably an understatement, as Arkansas had already rallied from an early 4-0 deficit to tie the game in the sixth, only to turn around and give the lead right back to the Crimson Tide in the top of the seventh.
The 5-4 score set the stage for the late-game fireworks. Brady Slavens led off the inning by beating the shift with a single through the left side, Parker Rowland drew a walk and John Bolton moved them to second and third with a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt.
Kade Woods, who entered the game to face Bolton, quickly got ahead 1-2 against Josenberger and appeared to strike him out with a pitch on the outside corner, but home plate umpire Mark Winters called it a ball.
Bohannon immediately began voicing his displeasure, first yelling and banging on the dugout padding, then coming a step or two in front of the dugout to continue to yell. At that point, Winters had seen enough and ejected him.
The sixth-year Alabama baseball coach got his money’s worth, getting in the umpire’s face for several seconds before seemingly calming down enough to leave the field. However, on his way back to the dugout, Bohannon waved to the crowd, seemed to gesture toward his own dugout in an effort to fire up the team and then — for his grand finale — put both of his arms in the air twice as if doing the first two-thirds of a Hog Call.
“That was the second time in the game that he had really, really got on the umpire about not calling a pitch and both of them were on breaking balls,” Van Horn said. “I couldn’t believe he didn’t even get a warning the first time or get thrown out. A lot of umpires won’t put up with it and they put up with it for a long time right there.”
Van Horn, who said he actually likes Bohannon and that he just “got emotional,” made sure to point out that Winters’ zone was inconsistent for both teams throughout the game. Just an inning earlier, Kendall Diggs was rung up on a pitch outside of the zone with the go-ahead run on third base.
The blowup immediately backfired. Bohannon hadn’t even made it all the way to the tunnel back to the clubhouse when Josenberger smacked the very next pitch into the right field corner to drive in the tying and go-ahead runs.
“Right when he got ejected, I knew the momentum just flipped on our side,” Josenberger said. “I knew right after that, that I was going to have a big swing in a big moment. Got a pitch to hit and put a pretty good swing on it.”
The sequence sent a packed Baum-Walker Stadium into a frenzy, but Van Horn downplayed the significance of it when it came to lighting a fire under his team, which had been riding a three-game SEC losing streak in which it lost by a combined 30 runs.
“I think our guys were just trying to stay focused in the zone,” Van Horn said. “I think we were already fired up enough. We needed a win in the worst way.”
This apparently wasn’t the first time Bohannon made the mistake of poking the Razorbacks by mocking the Hog Call, either. According to Marshall Denton — the submariner formerly known as Angus — he also did it prior to Game 3 of the 2021 series.
Arkansas went on to win that game 3-1 to clinch the first of what proved to be 10 straight SEC series that season. He should have learned his lesson then, but instead, his team was outscored 5-1 following his latest mockery.
“We were all right on top of the rail when he was going through that AB, especially right after he got ejected,” Caleb Cali said. “Once he got that hit, we erupted. It was one of the craziest parts of the games and it was awesome.”
More Seventh-Inning Excitement
It honestly could have been worse for Alabama. After Peyton Stovall went down on strikes, Jared Wegner hit a slow chopper up the middle that shortstop Jim Jarvis wasn’t able to field cleanly.
The bobble led to Tavian Josenberger getting greedy and trying to score from second on the play, but he was gunned down at the plate, keeping the score at 6-5.
“I couldn’t tell if he blocked the plate or not, but I closed my eyes, look up and I wasn’t at the plate,” Josenberger said with a smile. “I just ran into a wall, but I’ve done that before, so I’m all good.”
Josenberger was very clearly out at the plate, but Dave Van Horn bolted out of the dugout and immediately got in the umpire’s face, arguing that obstruction should have been called because he thought catcher Mac Guscette was blocking the plate without the ball.
The argument quickly de-escalated because Van Horn was able to ask for a review, but the call stood even after replay.
“If he made contact with Josenberger before he had the ball in his glove, it’s obstruction,” Van Horn said. “I think the home plate umpire even said to me he thought it could have been, like maybe it was, but then obviously back at the command center, they didn’t feel that way or they felt like it was not as obvious as it needed to be and they didn’t call it.”
Big Swings Provide the Dagger
Much like it did in the top of the seventh, Alabama answered with a run in the eighth inning to once again tie it up.
The Crimson Tide stranded runners on second and third, though, which left the door open for Arkansas to take the lead right back. It needed just three pitches to do just that, as Jace Bohrofen hit a leadoff laser off the Hunter Center.
His 363-foot blast — his sixth long ball of the year — had a launch angle of just 21.5 degrees, but left the bat with a 106 mph exit velocity.
“You got your cleanup hitter swinging the bat good, he takes two breaking balls for strikes and then he tried to throw another one to him,” Van Horn said. “I’m sure he was supposed to maybe try to bounce it or get it down in the zone, see if he could get him to swing over it. He left it up and he lines it into the net. That was huge.”
After a walk by Kendall Diggs and a failed pickoff attempt that moved him to third, Caleb Cali gave the Razorbacks some breathing room by hitting a gargantuan two-run home run into the Hog Pen. The ball left his bat at 111 mph and went 450 feet.
“Cali just missed a fastball the pitch before and he was a little late on it, but I liked the way he let it get deep and tried to shoot it to right,” Van Horn said. “Then he came back with another breaking ball and he left it up and he hit it a long way, so that was a big swing for us.”
Even though that was his first hit in four at bats, it was only a matter of time before Cali squared one up like that. He smoked a 110 mph line drive his first time up, but the left fielder managed to catch it. In his second at bat, Cali hooked what would have been another impressive home run.
That eighth-inning swing proved to be the final dagger for a win in which Van Horn said his team “showed a lot of toughness and grit.”
“They were throwing punches and we punched right back,” Josenberger said. “I feel like we all knew that we were going to win that baseball game and we went out and did it.”
Rallying From Early Deficit
The Razorbacks found themselves in a 4-0 hole thanks to Alabama jumping all over Will McEntire in the fourth inning.
The right-hander had limited the Crimson Tide’s dangerous offense to only one run through three innings, with that coming on a one-out home run by Jim Jarvis in the second inning, but after retiring 10 of the first 13 batters he faced, McEntire gave up four straight hits.
The latter two of those hits were an RBI single by Dominic Tamez and RBI double by William Hamiter, with a run-scoring wild pitch mixed in. That chased him from the game after just 3 1/3 innings.
It was the second straight rough start for McEntire, who has seen opponents to 16 for 39 (.410) against him in those two outings. Against LSU and Alabama, he was charged with 11 earned runs in 7 2/3 innings, causing his ERA to balloon to 5.77.
At that point, Arkansas baseball had been outscored 16-1 in 12.5 innings. It didn’t roll over and accept its fate, though.
“They just kept fighting obviously,” Van Horn said. “They felt like we were taking some good swings. We hit a few balls hard that were caught. We felt like we could catch them.”
Sure enough, the Razorbacks got right back into it with a two-out, three-run home run by Kendall Diggs. It was a 420-foot shot off the batter’s eye in center.
It would be another couple of innings before they tied it up with a Jace Bohrofen RBI single, but that home run made the score much more manageable by pulling Arkansas within one.
“Coach says it all the time — we have a really good offense and we’re never really out of the game,” Cali said. “It doesn’t matter how many runs they put on the board, we can click on all cylinders and we’re a force to be reckoned with.”
Josenberger’s Huge Weekend
It came in a losing effort, but Tavian Josenberger was single-handedly worth about three runs for Arkansas baseball on Friday. In addition to his solo home run, he also made a diving catch to rob Tommy Seidl of a hit that would have driven in two runs for the Crimson Tide.
The Kansas transfer picked up where he left off Saturday. He nearly hit a leadoff home run in the first inning, but he hit the ball to the deepest part of the park and it was caught at the wall. After that, Josenberger notched three straight hits.
The first two of those knocks led off the fourth and sixth innings, and he came around to score both times. His third was the aforementioned two-run double that gave Arkansas its first lead of the series.
“He’s been good on both sides of the ball so to speak,” Van Horn said. “Defensively he’s saving us runs. Offensively he’s scoring runs, he’s driving in runs, hitting home runs. He almost hit a home run in his first at-bat. If he pulls it just a little bit, (it’s gone). … He’s been having a great series. I can’t really say enough about him. He’s been unbelievable.”
Even though he played a part in four of Arkansas’ nine runs, a case could be made that Josenberger’s biggest impact came in the field Saturday.
With Alabama leading 4-3 in the fifth inning, Jim Jarvis crushed a pitch to dead center. It looked like the ball might leave the yard, but Josenberger jumped at the wall and brought it back in for the final out of the inning.
“I knew he hit it really well,” Josenberger said. “The ball was flying today because of the wind. Went back on it, timed the jump pretty well and it found the glove.”
Had he not made that catch, it would have been a 7-3 game in favor of the Crimson Tide, which would have changed the entire complexion of the game.
“Josenberger made an amazing play,” Alabama baseball coach Brad Bohannon said. “That was a huge swing. That’s a difference between the inning ending and coming in to bat with some momentum versus being down another three runs. It was an amazing play and great players make great plays and that’s what he did.”
The very next inning, Josenberger saved at least one run, if not more, by running down a fly ball by William Hamiter in the right-center gap. Off the bat, it looked like a sure double, which is why Dominic Tamez took off from first on contact. He was nearly to third before realizing the ball was caught, so Arkansas easily doubled him off.
Even if that catch took only one run off the board for Alabama, Josenberger was worth about eight runs to the Razorbacks on Saturday. That means he’s been worth 11 total runs for the weekend.
Decision to Go with Hagen Smith
Although he had teased the idea of moving him back into a starter role, Dave Van Horn kept Hagen Smith in the bullpen Saturday and actually called upon him in a big spot.
It was a tie game entering the seventh when he came in, further proving that the veteran coach wasn’t just speaking in cliche when he said he would worry only about the game in front of him and not the following day’s game.
“We felt like if we could get through that inning maybe down a run at the most, we were probably just going to bring Hagen in,” Van Horn said. “We ended up tying the game and bought Hagen in.”
Even though he was charged with a couple of earned runs on five hits and one walk in his three innings of work, Van Horn said he felt like his “wildcard” pitched well. The only pitch he’d probably like back is the first-pitch homer he allowed to Andrew Pinckney that gave Alabama the lead in the top of the seventh.
“He had really good command of his breaking pitch and the fastball was good, too,” Van Horn said. “Hindsight’s 20/20, we should’ve thrown something else there, but I like the confidence he has on the mound. He thinks he can get anybody out with any pitch, so I’m good with it.”
That home run easily could have shaken him, as could the two-out RBI single he gave up to Drew Williamson that tied the game again in the eighth, but Smith didn’t let it bother him.
With runners on second and third, he got Bryce Eblin to ground out to end the eighth and preserve the tie and then he retired the side in the ninth, ending his day with back-to-back strikeouts.
“A lot of pitchers in a seesaw game, they get really frustrated, they feel like his team worked hard to score, then the other team scores, maybe they fold,” Van Horn said. “He didn’t fold. He just kept saying, ‘I’m just going to keep doing my job and give us a chance to win the game,’ and that’s what he does.”
Up Next for Arkansas Baseball
The Razorbacks and Crimson Tide will play a decisive rubber match at 2 p.m. CT Sunday. The game will be nationally televised on the SEC Network.
It’s unknown who Arkansas will start on the mound, as Van Horn was unsure of that decision when he met with reporters following Saturday’s win. Right-hander Cody Adcock, who has started the last two series finales, actually pitched out of the bullpen in Game 2, but needed just six pitches to retire the only batter he faced.
Alabama is going with junior left-hander Grayson Hitt, who has a 3.77 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings across six starts this year.
Other Arkansas Baseball Tidbits
- Saturday’s game had a season-high announced attendance of 10,713. That topped the Saturday game against Wright State on March 4, which drew an announced 10,530 fans.
- Thanks to long balls from Kendall Diggs, Jace Bohrofen and Caleb Cali, Arkansas has now homered in 23 straight games. However, it was the Razorbacks’ most home runs in a single game since hitting three in Game 2 of the Louisiana Tech series on March 11.
- With a third-inning homer and eighth-inning walk, Diggs extended his on-base streak to 18 games. That matches the longest of the year for Arkansas, tying previous streaks by Jared Wegner and John Bolton.
- After going 0 for 3 with three strikeouts Friday, Brady Slavens was benched in favor of freshman Reese Robinett Saturday. However, he entered the game as a defensive replacement in the seventh inning and turned in one of his better games. The super senior made a couple of nice defensive plays, hit the aforementioned opposite-field single and lined out with a 100 mph shot right at the first baseman. “I loved Slavens’ swing,” Van Horn said of his seventh-inning single. “They got a shift on and he shoots the first pitch right through the 5-6 hole over there that starts that inning. That was beautiful.”
- Alabama went 15 for 40 (.375) as a team Saturday afternoon. It is now hitting .420 (37 for 88) in two games against the Razorbacks this weekend.
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