Putting a Number on Wilmsmeyer’s Impact + More from Game 2 Win over James Madison

Ty Wilmsmeyer, Arkansas baseball, Arkansas vs James Madison
photo credit: Craven Whitlow

FAYETTEVILLE — You don’t need advanced analytics to quantify the value Ty Wilmsmeyer added to Arkansas on Saturday.

Between his bat, glove and legs, the Missouri transfer was worth about eight total runs in the Razorbacks’ 15-5 run-rule win over James Madison at Baum-Walker Stadium.

In addition to his career-high five RBIs, Wilmsmeyer used his speed to prevent a double play that would have ended an inning in which Arkansas tacked on a couple more runs and made a SportsCenter-worthy play in center field by robbing a home run.

The latter of those was arguably the highlight of the game, as it came against Fenwick Trimble, the Dukes’ preseason All-Sun Belt selection who had three hits in Game 1, and ended the fifth inning.

“That catch in center field by Wilmsmeyer was a classic,” Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn said. “That was beautiful. And it kind of fired up our dugout.”

“It was one of the better ones that I can remember at least,” Wilmsmeyer said. “I know the pitch probably wasn’t where Brady wanted it to be. Pull-side gap, Edmunson had great communication and let me know where I was at with the wall, able to time it up well and make a play.”

The Brady he was referring to there is Brady Tygart, who was especially glad that Wilmsmeyer took a run off the board with his leaping grab.

“Oh, that was big time, dude,” Tygart said with a smile. “I was right at my pitch limit too, so that was probably my last pitch, regardless. And I really didn’t want to be taken out of the game after a home run. I was really excited about that.”

On a normal day, that would have been any player’s best moment in a game, but it wasn’t even his first impact play of the day.

In the third inning, Wilmsmeyer actually broke the scoreless tie by launching the second pitch he saw over the right field fence for an opposite-field, 369-foot home run.

“He really got us going with that opposite-field home run,” Van Horn said. “He hit that ball pretty hard. That lefty kind of held us down there the first couple of innings. The hitters were a little frustrated, missing some pitches. Him getting that hit, that was big for us.”

The very next inning, Wilmsmeyer found himself in an 0-2 hole before poking an RBI single into left field that extended Arkansas’ lead to 4-1.

It looked like the Razorbacks might waste a two-on, no-out situation in the fifth inning, but with two outs, Wilmsmeyer delivered a two-run single up the middle. That made him 3 for 3 and put Arkansas up 7-1.

“I wouldn’t say that there was necessarily one thing to point to that attributed to the success,” Wilmsmeyer said. “Just staying simple, not trying to do too much. I kinda fell in that hole yesterday, trying to get big with my swing, but kept it simple today and good things happened.”

Wilmsmeyer finally made an out when he hit a ground ball to second with the bases loaded in the sixth inning, but he raced down the line to prevent a double play. Not only did that give him a fifth RBI, but it also extended the inning and Hudson White made the Dukes pay with a two-run double down the third base line. The second of those runs was scored by Wilmsmeyer, who turned on the jets to score from first.

It was a performance much more in line with what Wilmsmeyer showed during the three weeks leading up to the season, during which he went 6 for 16 (.375) in public scrimmages. Including one hit on opening day, he’s gone 4 for 9 (.444) through two games — a drastic improvement from the fall, when he unofficially hit just .158 (6 for 38).

“You transfer in from another school, especially one from the same conference, it’d probably be a little stressful,” Van Horn said. “You just gotta relax and get comfortable and I think he’s starting to feel that way.”

If that kind of production continues, it would only be natural to wonder if Arkansas might move him up from the 9-hole in the lineup, but it doesn’t sound like that’s something Van Horn would want to do.

“We kind of like him down there, kind of like a second leadoff guy,” Van Horn said. “He has a little sneaky power and can really run.”

Birthday Boy Delivers for Arkansas

Not playing until the second game of the season meant freshman Ryder Helfrick made his collegiate debut on his 19th birthday — one he’ll never forget.

Starting behind the plate at catcher, he caught all nine innings and threw out the only base stealer of the game, plus handled all of the other stuff that comes with playing the position.

“I thought he caught great today,” Van Horn said. “Blocked everything, looked great receiving, kept balls in or close to the strike zone as good as you could, in my opinion.”

As if that wasn’t enough, Helfrick crushed a 367-foot home run in his second at bat to give Arkansas a 2-1 lead in the fourth. It left the bat with a 105 mph exit velocity.

He also walked and was hit by a pitch before grounding into a double play in his final at bat of the day, making him 1 for 3.

“That’s a good birthday,” Van Horn said. “Start your first college game, hit a home run. Probably going to get a good meal tonight, too, I’m guessing.”

Big-Time Response

The final score might indicate a blowout in Arkansas’ favor, but that wasn’t the case until late in the game.

James Madison scored four runs in the top of the sixth to pull within 7-5 before the Razorbacks answered with a six-run inning of their own.

“That’s a sign of a great team right there, able to respond after they hang a few runs on us,” Wilmsmeyer said. “Kinda stopped their momentum and swing it back in our direction is obviously huge for the game and the sign of a great team.”

Before the aforementioned RBI fielder’s choice by Wilmsmeyer and two-run double by White, Arkansas got an RBI single from Peyton Holt and Jared Sprague-Lott drew a bases-loaded walk. An RBI single by Kendall Diggs capped the big inning.

“To me what I really liked was when we gave up the big lead, they scored four in that inning, and we came back and scored six and kind of got the momentum back on our side and had a chance to finish it off,” Van Horn said.

Assessing Tygart’s Start

It may not have been the sharpest of starts for Brady Tygart, but the right-hander still got through five innings and allowed only one run.

He did, however, issue a pair of walks and plunk three batters while striking out four.

“My body didn’t feel like great, but still got the results that I was looking for,” Tygart said. “So I think it’s going to help me down the road.”

James Madison’s leadoff men reached in each of the first two innings, but were ultimately stranded on second after a couple of sacrifice bunts.

Things got really interesting in the fourth inning. Tygart gave up a one-out single to Ryan Dooley and then put three of the next four players on base with free passes — the last of which was a bases-loaded walk of Jason Schiavone to tie the score at 1-1.

It could have been worse, but he struck out Wyatt Peifer to strand the bases loaded — something Tygart has been known to do during his time in Fayetteville.

“I think two of the five innings he had to fight through them a little bit, but his pitch count got up,” Van Horn said. “And again, I’m taking into consideration that it’s not ideal baseball weather, especially for a pitcher trying grip a baseball and throw it. But pretty good first outing.”

Frank Finishes it Off

Perhaps the best thing to see Saturday was the return of Koty Frank. The Nebraska transfer figured to be a key member of Arkansas’ bullpen last year before going down with a torn lat muscle early in the year.

He helped the Hogs escape the sixth inning and then threw two more scoreless innings, retiring all seven batters he faced on just 33 pitches.

“He threw all of his pitches for a strike,” catcher Ryder Helfrick said. “I think every single batter, he started off with a strike. It was fun to catch. He was kinda throwing whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. He got hitters out by doing that.”

It wasn’t quite every batter like Helfrick said, but Frank did throw five first-pitch strikes. He induced five fly ball outs and one groundout, meaning he had just one strikeout.

“He got ahead of them quick,” Van Horn said. “Changed speeds, slider, change-up, curveball. He did a great job. He’s not out there trying to strike everybody out. He’s just trying to get you out.”

Not only was that good to see because it was Frank’s first real outing since returning from injury, but he had also struggled in his three preseason outings. Unofficially, he gave up six runs on eight hits and two walks with four strikeouts in 5 1/3 scrimmage innings, but he looked much better against James Madison.

In fact, Frank even earned a save for his performance. That may sound weird in a 10-run game that ended in a walk-off, but he entered the game with a runner on first and two-run lead.

Up Next for Arkansas Baseball

The Razorbacks can clinch their season-opening series against James Madison with a win on Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. CT and the game will be streamed on SEC Network-Plus.

Left-hander Mason Molina, the transfer from Texas Tech, will make the start in his Arkansas baseball debut. The Dukes will counter with senior right-hander Ryan Murphy.

Other Arkansas Baseball Tidbits

  • With the run rule in effect, Arkansas needed two runs in the eighth to end the game an inning early. It got them on one swing, as shortstop Wehiwa Aloy drove in a pair with a single to left — his first hit at Arkansas. The Sacramento State transfer had been 0 for 7 with four strikeouts. “You didn’t see him coming into the dugout and doing anything crazy and acting frustrated,” Van Horn said. “He’s playing like a professional. He knows he can hit and for him to get that hit, finish that game off, it’s big for him and nice for us to get off the field.”
  • In addition to starting Ryder Helfrick at catcher, Dave Van Horn also made a change in left field by giving Will Edmunson the nod over Jayson Jones. The JUCO transfer went 1 for 4 with a hit-by-pitch and three runs. One of his outs was a line drive caught at the wall in left, too. “The wind actually pushed that ball down,” Van Horn said. “When he hit it, we thought it was going to get over his head or maybe even out of the park and it just kind of sunk.”
  • After popping out in the infield his first two times up, Hudson White walked his next to plate appearances and then ended his day with back-to-back doubles. He is Arkansas’ only player with multiple extra-base hits and actually has three now, as he also homered on Opening Day.
  • Left-hander Parker Coil was first out of the bullpen Saturday and struggled. He didn’t even make it through a full inning, giving up four earned runs on four hits and one walk while recording only two outs.
  • James Madison shortstop and leadoff man Mason Dunaway took a pitch off the helmet in both of his plate appearances before being replaced.
  • After a 3-for-4 performance on Opening Day, Fenwick Trimble was contained by Arkansas pitchers Saturday. He went 0 for 4, but two of hits outs came on really nice defensive plays. In addition to Wilmsmeyer’s home run robbery, Peyton Holt made a sliding stop on a grounder up the middle and seamlessly fired to first for the out. The other two outs were deep fly/line outs to center.
  • Former Arkansas pitcher James Teague, who is now a lawyer in Rogers, threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game.

Arkansas vs James Madison Highlights (Game 2)

Arkansas Baseball Postgame Interviews

Arkansas vs James Madison Box Score (Game 2)

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