Rare Mistake Erases Gem, Heroics + More from Game 2 Loss vs Alabama

Arkansas baseball, Alabama baseball, Arkansas vs Alabama
photo credit: Alabama Athletics

More than two decades into his tenure as the Arkansas baseball coach, Dave Van Horn’s mantra is well known by everyone: pitching and defense. 

It was the latter of those that snapped the No. 1 Razorbacks’ 11-game winning streak when Jake Faherty chucked a comebacker over Ben McLaughlin’s head, allowing Alabama’s pinch runner Mason Swinney – who came in to run after Kade Snell doubled off the wall – to score the game-winning run and give No. 25 Alabama a 4-3 win in 10 innings.

“I’d have rather just had the ball leave the yard,” Van Horn said. “We’d get walked off. Tough losing on a play like that, a comebacker. The runner had broke from second. If (Faherty) fields the ball, you’ve got an opportunity to just throw him out at third base.”

Alabama head coach Rob Vaughn had a much more jovial take on TJ McCants’ hot smash that won the game and evened the series after the Hogs took Game 1.

“Kind of funny that in a game where I feel like there was a ton of loud outs, TJ hit that one about 24 miles an hour and it’s the game-winner,” Vaughn said. 

It was the first error by the Razorbacks in 42 innings. They came into the weekend with an excellent .981 fielding percentage, which ranked third in the SEC and 11th nationally.

But it wasn’t just the defense that let the Hogs down late in the Tuscaloosa night. One of the staples of the Arkansas offense also disappeared. The Razorbacks drew just one walk in 38 plate appearances, a season-low (two walks five different times). Coming into the game, Arkansas averaged 5.64 walks a game.

Without the walks, the Hogs were limited to just seven base runners and the bats were stymied, managing just three solo home runs. It wasn’t until Peyton Stovall’s 366-foot leadoff homer in the fifth that they finally got a runner past second against Alabama starter Greg Farone.

“(Farone) threw nothing but strikes, so we swung,” Van Horn said. “The first inning, we hit three hard ground balls right at him. So you’re thinking these are going to start dropping a little bit. He had a couple of quick innings there.” 

Unexpected Silver Lining

One might question why a coach who is 12-1 in SEC play and 30-3 coming into the game felt the need to flip the lineup on its head. The answer is rather simple: Hagen Smith and a dominant bullpen have masked many of the underlying stop-start elements of the Razorback offense outside the top four in every major offensive category in the SEC.

That’s unusual for not only the favorite in the SEC, but also the consensus top team in the country. All season long, there seemed to be a log jam of infielders, while left field continued to be a revolving door that spun faster than a roulette wheel with no production. Van Horn finally had enough it seems, opting to stick Peyton Holt, an infielder by trade, in left.

He was instantly rewarded, as Holt went 3 for 4 at the plate, including a dramatic first-pitch ambush of closer Alton Davis II with two outs in the ninth. The home run – his first of the year – tied the game at 3-3 and forced extras.

“We haven’t had any offense from our outfield in a while,” Van Horn said. “We’ve got to have some outfielders start swinging the bat for us.”

Molina’s Masterclass

Mason Molina showed potential early in the season with back-to-back 10-strikeout performances against Michigan and Murray State, but things had been trending in the wrong direction recently.

The Texas Tech transfer was charged with six earned runs in his last two starts while walking six and he had recorded just one out in the sixth inning or later in his nine starts this year.

All that changed Saturday, as Molina turned in his first quality start of the year by finishing the sixth inning with no walks and six strikeouts on 101 pitches. Molina also showed his mettle in the second, stranding runners at the corners with no outs after allowing a solo homer to start the inning.

“(I) thought he did a great job for us today,” Van Horn said. “That’ll be something that hopefully he’ll be able to repeat down the road here.”

Other Arkansas Baseball Tidbits 

  • Jared Sprague-Lott became just the second Razorback this year to homer on back-to-back days (Wehiwa Aloy, April 5 and 6 against Ole Miss). 
  • Despite hitting 100 mph on the fastball, Christian Foutch’s streak of six straight scoreless appearances ended when Stone Hewlett allowed one of the inherited runners to score. It was the first earned run charged to Foutch since the opening weekend of the season.

Up Next for Arkansas Baseball

The Razorbacks will conclude their series at Alabama with their first rubber game of the season. Arkansas starts Brady Tygart (3-0, 2.70 ERA), while Alabama’s starter has not been announced yet. 

First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. CT and will be streamed on SEC Network+

Arkansas vs Alabama Highlights (Game 2)

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Postgame Interviews

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Arkansas vs Alabama Box Score (Game 2)


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