On Night of Upsets, No. 1 Arkansas Left No Doubt vs Arkansas State

Nolan Souza, Arkansas baseball, Arkansas vs Arkansas State
photo credit: Craven Whitlow

With temperatures in the 40s and the wind whipping at Baum-Walker Stadium, Arkansas was eager to get things over with as soon as possible Tuesday night.

That’s exactly what happened, as the No. 1 Razorbacks smashed in-state foe Arkansas State 13-0 in a seven-inning run-rule victory. In fact, Arkansas scored all of its runs in the first three innings of the ball game.

Third baseman Peyton Holt got things started with an RBI infield single to open the scoring in the first. After struggling for playing time during SEC play, the spark plug rose to the occasion when he was given the start. The Greenwood native finished 2 for 4 from the plate to raise his season batting average to .340.

It only got worse from there for the Red Wolves. “Crooked numbers” are always something that coaches want to see from their teams, as good hitting can oftentimes be contagious. That was certainly the case for Arkansas, as it scored a remarkable nine runs in the third inning to put the game to bed before it really even started. 

The wildest part about that frame wasn’t even that the Razorbacks nearly put up double-digit runs in a single go – it was that they did all of that damage with two outs. In fact, all 13 of the Hogs’ runs came with two outs. After early season struggles with situational hitting, head coach Dave Van Horn made sure to applaud his team’s disciplined plate approach and clutch hits.

“We took a few walks, got some big hits and created some really big innings,” Van Horn said. “Just kind of put them away in the third inning with the nine-spot…two-out hits, especially two-out RBI, in a way it really bothers the other team. Bothers the other team’s pitcher.”

Souza’s Slam Puts Nail in Coffin

The mammoth third inning was punctuated by a grand slam from designated hitter Nolan Souza. If the Red Wolves pitchers weren’t bothered before, they were surely shaking their heads after the true freshman’s big fly.

Souza’s nuke was launched an astonishing 458 feet over the right-center field wall with an exit velocity of 111 mph. On the SEC Network-Plus broadcast, you can’t even see the ball land. With the ball traveling eastward, it’s likely that the Arkansas State bus will encounter it somewhere along its drive back to Jonesboro.

“Really good to see him get a couple good swings off,” Van Horn said. “He laid off a pitch or two he didn’t like, he got one he liked and he hammered it…2 of 3, double and a home run and four RBI. Good night.”

A good night indeed. On a frigid night in Fayetteville, the Honolulu, Hawaii, native was a little bit outside of his comfort zone. Souza talked about keeping warm physically and mentally while playing DH instead of his usual second base.

“I just had to learn how to stay warm,” Souza said. “Obviously, it’s not like defense where you’re going out there every inning and moving around…you’ll have to find other ways to keep yourself warm in between at-bats.”

“I mean, the cold is not fun. I’ve never been in the cold before, I’ve never experienced a real winter or anything. And I thought once it got warm that we were done with the cold, so this cold coming back is kind of weird. We get through it.”

Agreed, Nolan.

Dominant Pitching from Secondary Arms

With an important weekend series on tap against rival Ole Miss, Dave Van Horn was certainly hoping that he could get through this midweek game without having to tire out his top arms. The early damage made his wish come true, as the Razorbacks were able to stick to their plan of turning to some secondary arms that have featured much less in the rotation this season.

Arkansas used seven different pitchers in seven innings of shutout baseball. Four of those arms have yet to appear in an SEC game this season, and the other three have thrown just 7 2/3 combined innings in nine games of conference play. 

These unsung heroes combined to allow just one hit and four walks, while tallying 13 strikeouts. The Red Wolves sent 26 batters to the plate, so half of those at-bats ended with a K. Starter Colin Fisher tossed a pair of innings, and none of the relievers’ outings lasted longer than a single frame.

“We were planning on throwing these guys today,” Van Horn said. “Whether it went seven, nine, eight, whatever, extra innings … You just kind of see what the game’s telling you to do, but we really wanted to get every one of those pitchers that pitched in there. I think there were seven of them.”

The excellence of these younger pitchers will certainly let Van Horn breathe a sigh of relief, as all of his best weapons will be well-rested for the weekend series starting on Thursday, plus he got a look at some other arms likely in contention for a spot on the 27-man roster against Ole Miss.

The Razorbacks’ pitching depth has come in handy in midweek games all year. Stretching back to last week’s game against Little Rock, Arkansas pitchers have combined to throw 14 scoreless innings and allow just three hits across two run-rule midweek victories over in-state opposition.

Arkansas Avoids Midweek Madness

Arkansas stretched its winning streak at Baum-Walker Stadium to a program-record 18 games with the victory over A-State. The Razorbacks’ 24-3 record is their best start to a season in 42 years. 

That year, Arkansas was led by a community college transfer infielder who won SWC Newcomer of the Year. His name was Dave Van Horn.

Also notable is the fact that Arkansas is now 5-0 in its midweek games this season. Looking around the SEC, many other heavyweight programs have struggled mightily in these matchups. 

Florida is the most egregious example of this, as the Gators have dropped five midweek games to in-state opponents and struggled to put away Florida A&M on Tuesday. On Monday, No. 18 LSU’s woes continued with a 12-7 loss to cross-city rival Southern.

While Arkansas was hammering the Red Wolves, Ole Miss lost its tune-up game against Memphis. After getting swept by Kentucky last weekend, the Rebels will head to Fayetteville on a four-game losing streak. UCA, which gave a scare to Arkansas earlier in the season, also went to Starkville and knocked off No. 23 Mississippi State on Tuesday.

It’s clear that even against cupcake opposition, these games are never guaranteed victories. Baseball is a fickle game where anybody can win on any given night. Add in the fact that many powerhouse teams get caught looking ahead to their weekend matchups while the mid-majors are playing their proverbial Super Bowl, and you’ve got a recipe for some upsets.

And yet, the top-ranked Razorbacks have been able to retain their focus and get the job done – even on a gusty, 40-degree night where the last thing you want to be doing is playing baseball against your school’s little brother.

“They just come out and play,” Van Horn said. “They show up and they play hard. It doesn’t matter if it’s conference, non-conference…they take care of business. I like the maturity that I’m seeing. They just like to play.

“They’re not thinking about what happened last weekend, or they’re not getting too far ahead of themselves looking for the weekend…they’re just taking care of what’s in front of them. That’s what I like.”

Up next, the Razorbacks will host Ole Miss for a three-game series starting on Thursday night. The Rebels hold an 18-12 overall record and are 3-6 in SEC play. The series opener will be broadcast on SEC Network and the latter two games will be streamed on SEC Network Plus.

Arkansas vs Arkansas State Highlights

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Arkansas Baseball Postgame Interviews

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Arkansas vs Arkansas State Box Score


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