Freshman Delivers Walk-Off in Wild Comeback by Hogs + More from Game 1 vs Texas Tech

Nolan Souza, Arkansas baseball, Arkansas vs Texas Tech
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics

Trailing by seven runs early on Tuesday night, No. 2 Arkansas clawed its way all the way back against Texas Tech and eventually walked it off to win 9-8.

Hudson White’s RBI double against his former school capped a six-run fifth inning that tied the game and Nolan Souza’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth put the exclamation point on a thrilling midweek victory at Baum-Walker Stadium.

Arkansas had to go to the bullpen early in the contest, as Texas Tech started hot and plated six runs in the second inning. From there, it was an uphill battle. On the backs of an impressive combined effort from the bullpen, the Hogs were able to hold the Red Raiders in check and mount a comeback.

It would have been easy for Arkansas to throw in the towel after falling behind so early, especially given the disappointing series loss in Tuscaloosa over the weekend. But the Razorbacks responded and didn’t quit, leading to a miraculous turnaround and a morale-boosting victory.

“Obviously that was a really good win for our team, especially the way it finished up in Tuscaloosa after not swinging the bats at all and then getting down tonight like we did, 7-0,” Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn said. “Just proud of our guys. They rallied and just kept going and found a way to win against a team that can really hit. We’ve got our hands full again tomorrow.”

Texas Tech Puts Hogs Behind the 8-Ball Early

Arkansas drew a crowd of nearly 10,000 people on a Tuesday night for what was anticipated to be a competitive midweek game. Instead, a hush fell over Baum-Walker Stadium as Texas Tech hammered the Hogs in the second inning.

Sophomore Ben Bybee got the start and had been impressive this season, bringing a 1.00 ERA in nine innings of work into Tuesday night’s game. But he simply did not have his best stuff, as the Red Raiders knocked him all over the park.

Third baseman Cade McGee opened the scoring with a two-run shot into the left field bullpen, and the damage only got worse from there. The Red Raiders rallied off four straight singles to score another pair of runs and make it 4-0, which forced Van Horn to make an early call to the bullpen.

Christian Foutch tried his best to stop the bleeding, but right fielder Austin Green – who went 5 for 5 with four RBIs and a home run – roped a double off the glove of a diving Will Edmunson to bring home two more runs. The inning mercifully ended with the Hogs trailing 6-0 before they even had a chance to settle in.

Bybee ended the night with more earned runs allowed (6) than outs recorded (4) – a disappointing outing, to say the least.

Arkansas’ Crooked Response

Luckily for Bybee, the bats had his back tonight. It took the offense a while to get going, perhaps still nursing a hangover from Sunday’s shutout loss against Alabama. The Hogs managed only one run through the first four innings, and that came off an infield single by Jack Wagner.

That all changed in the fifth inning when the Razorbacks came to life. 

The action started with slugger Jayson Jones, who has struggled to earn consistent playing time this season, clobbering a ball to center that one-hopped off the wall. Peyton Holt knocked him home with a single hit on a rope. After a walk by Peyton Stovall, things got weird. 

Jared Sprague-Lott grounded into a double play that scored a run in unfortunate fashion, but Wehiwa Aloy kept the inning alive with an RBI blooper into the Bermuda Triangle down the left field line. Ben McLaughlin took full advantage of the momentum surge, launching a two-run blast into the Hog Pen to put Arkansas well within striking distance.

With the deficit cut to one, up stepped catcher Hudson White against his former school. The junior clearly wasn’t feeling too sentimental about the reunion, as he promptly ripped a double down the left field line to tie the game.

Arkansas had erased the deficit, and clawed all the way back with seven unanswered runs – six of those coming in the mammoth fifth inning.

Need a Run? Call Souza

Entering the bottom of the ninth, Texas Tech head coach Tim Tadlock turned to shutdown righty Parker Hutyra, who had a miniscule ERA of 0.44. After a chaotic, high-scoring game, the Red Raiders brought in one of their most reliable relievers to try and calm things down and send the game to extras. Instead, all hell broke loose in what turned out to be the game’s final frame.

Sprague-Lott led off the inning by reaching base on an error by McGee, when the ball skipped off his glove and spilled into left field. Aloy then hit a dribbler back to the mound, but Hutrya stumbled while fielding it and made an errant throw to second that was bobbled. McLaughlin was then hit by a pitch square in the back.

“It looked like he was going to run or throw the ball to first base and then realized ‘I need to throw to second base,’ then kind of slipped, threw the ball, and there you go,” Van Horn said of Texas Tech’s errors. “That’s a recipe for a disaster. We kind of saw that too in our game at Alabama. The game can be kind of fragile, especially at the end when everything matters. Especially when it’s down there when it’s over if you score. And we did just enough that inning to punch in a run.”

The bases were loaded with no outs in the bottom of the ninth of a tie game. That’s the scenario every kid dreams of.

With designated hitter Jack Wagner dealing with a stinger on his hand from getting hit by a pitch in his last plate appearance, Van Horn needed someone to call on in the biggest of moments. He decided on true freshman Nolan Souza.

And boy did he ever deliver. It wasn’t the flashiest of walk-offs, but good situational hitting is sometimes one of the hardest things to do in baseball. Simply put, the Hawaiian did his job in the clutch, cool as you like.

“[Souza’s] got a really good approach at the plate,” Van Horn said. “He was a little bit out in front of the first breaking ball, but I thought after that he did a great job in the at-bat. Even down 0-2 in the at-bat, he tried to sneak a fastball by him…he didn’t bite. He didn’t swing. I think he fouled a pitch off and then got the sac fly. I think he’s got 60 or 70 at-bats now. To me, I don’t look at him as a freshman, I look at him as just a good hitter and I have a lot of confidence in him.”

Bullpen Steps Up as Pitching Depth Shows

Arkansas’ pitching depth was once again on display. It’s not often that a college pitching staff has reliable arms to turn to when things go south on a Tuesday night, but Van Horn and pitching coach Matt Hobbs certainly have that luxury.

The Razorbacks brought five relievers out of the bullpen, and they combined to throw 7.2 innings and give up only two earned runs – in addition to an impressive 12-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Van Horn used a combination of depth pieces like Foutch and Parker Coil as well as weekend regulars like Will McEntire and Gabe Gaeckle. 

The result was a brilliant salvaging effort by the nation’s best pitching staff.

“We wouldn’t be sitting here with a smile on our face if we didn’t have that depth, that’s for sure,” Van Horn said with a laugh. “We threw the guys we were planning on throwing.

“If we didn’t throw McEntire tonight or Gaeckle tonight, and probably even Gage [Wood]…they wouldn’t throw tomorrow, because we’ve got to get them ready for Friday, possibly Saturday. It was just a great job by the bullpen, and we had a couple other guys out there that we have confidence in, too, if the game would’ve continued on.”

McEntire has found himself occupying the “Iron Man” role out of the bullpen, and he’s clearly embraced it. With regularity over the last few weekends, McEntire has been the first arm out of the bullpen to relieve Hagen Smith on Friday, and after a day of rest, he goes again on Sunday – and his shifts have now expanded to midweeks, too.

Somebody get this man some overtime pay.

McEntire has now logged 40 innings, appearing in exactly half of Arkansas’ 36 games. That’s by far more volume than any other bullpen arm on the staff, as the next closest Razorback reliever is Gabe Gaeckle, with 23 innings on the books. In fact, McEntire is within sniffing distance of the workload that Arkansas’ starters are putting up (47 for Hagen Smith, 43.1 for Mason Molina and 41.2 for Brady Tygart).

His outing against Texas Tech started rough, as Austin Green continued his rampage by sending McEntire’s very first pitch over the wall for a solo shot to retake the lead – but he settled in and finished the inning without any further damage.

The 25 pitches he threw against Texas Tech are unlikely to deter him from punching in against South Carolina this weekend. In fact, you’d be smart to bet on him being the first name out of the bullpen on Friday night once again. While Hagen Smith is deservingly getting most of the plaudits on this pitching staff, it’s impossible not to mention the importance of the Razorbacks being able to lean on the veteran McEntire whenever they need him.

Up Next for Arkansas Baseball

Arkansas baseball will have a quick turnaround with less than 20 hours between the end of the first game and the start of the second against Texas Tech. First pitch at Baum-Walker Stadium is set for 4 p.m CT and the game will be broadcast on SEC Network.

Left-hander Colin Fisher (6-1, 1.96 ERA) has been named the starting pitcher for the Razorbacks.

Other Arkansas Baseball Tidbits

  • Arkansas gave up eight runs to Texas Tech, matching a season-high previously set in the series finale against Auburn.
  • Texas Tech’s four stolen bases were a team season high, and perhaps a pointed gesture at former Red Raider Hudson White, who started behind the dish for the Razorbacks.
  • Red Raiders reliever Jacob Rogers entered from the bullpen and proceeded to throw two of his warmup pitches completely over the catcher’s head, to the crowd’s delight. The PA announcer played “Wild Thing” on the loudspeaker before his outing began, and Rogers went on to hit Jack Wagner with a pitch in the ensuing inning. Go figure.
  • Peyton Holt got the start in center field, but was later shifted into left after Ty Wilmsmeyer came in as a pinch runner. It was Wilmsmeyer that made an important ninth-inning play to prevent a run by catching a hard-hit liner.
  • Van Horn said that Kendall Diggs missed tonight’s game with some swelling in his non-throwing shoulder and will not play Wednesday, but should be available for the weekend series.

Arkansas vs Texas Tech Highlights (Game 1)

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Postgame Interviews

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Arkansas vs Texas Tech Box Score (Game 1)


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