The No. 4 Razorbacks (31-8, 12-5) couldn’t extend a seven-game winning streak against the Texas A&M Aggies (24-14, 9-8) in a road series opener on Friday night, but on Saturday they didn’t waste any time in getting a new streak started.
Brady Slavens’ two homers and Zack Morris’ three shutout innings of relief lifted No. 4 Arkansas to a 3-1 win over Texas A&M on Saturday afternoon at Blue Bell Park.
The Razorbacks evened the series at one game apiece with Saturday’s victory. Arkansas, winners of 14 of its last 15 overall SEC series, go for the road series win in today’s rubber game.
After struggling to find offense in yesterday’s series-opening loss, Arkansas scored a run in each of the first three innings on Saturday. Slavens jacked his first of two homers with one out in the top of the first to give the Hogs an early 1-0 lead.
Chris Lanzilli led off the second with a double and came around to score on a wild pitch, extending Arkansas’ advantage to two. The lead continued to grow in the very next inning when Slavens stepped up to the plate and blasted a leadoff home run to make it a 3-0 ballgame.
Slavens now has a team-leading 10 home runs on the year to go along with his team-best 42 runs batted in. The Olathe, Kan., native also drew a pair of walks in Saturday’s game and is now slashing .282/.349/.611 for the season.
Arkansas starter Hagen Smith lasted three innings before giving way to the bullpen. The true freshman left-hander had trouble with his control and walked a career-high five but managed to limit the Aggies to just one run on the afternoon.
Morris emerged from the bullpen and gave the Hogs exactly what they needed. The left-hander tossed three scoreless innings in relief of Smith, fanning one while allowing just one hit and a walk.
Zebulon Vermillion (0.1 IP) and Evan Taylor (1.2 IP) also made appearances in middle relief, combing for two scoreless innings. Taylor, the third Arkansas left-hander to throw, was sharp for the second day in a row as he struck out a pair.
The final three outs came down to true freshman Brady Tygart. The Razorback closer was unfazed by a hostile Texas A&M crowd, striking out one in a scoreless frame to lock down the 3-1 win and earn his sixth save of the season. (via Razorback Communications)
Arkansas vs Texas A&M Game 2 Recap
Connor Noland and Evan Taylor combined for a two-hitter, but their spectacular effort on the mound went to waste in Arkansas’ 2-1 loss to Texas A&M at Blue Bell Park. Arkansas fell to 30-8 overall and 11-5 in SEC play with Friday night’s loss. The setback also snapped the Hogs’ extraordinary streak of nine consecutive wins in the opening game of an SEC road series.
Making his 10th start of the season, Noland turned in his team-leading seventh quality start of the year against the Aggies. The veteran right-hander fanned seven over six innings while allowing two runs (both unearned) on two hits and three walks.
Noland and Texas A&M starter Nathan Dettmer were locked in a pitcher’s duel through the first three innings of Friday’s ballgame. The Aggies struck first, however, by taking advantage of a rare error from the Arkansas defense, which came into the game with the nation’s second-best fielding percentage.
Texas A&M capitalized on the defensive miscue by scoring twice in the bottom of the fourth to open a 2-0 lead. Neither of the runs were charged to Noland, who lowered his season earned run average to 2.54 in the effort.
Arkansas scratched back in the sixth on Michael Turner’s RBI single to right, cutting the deficit to one. The Hogs put runners on second and third to lead off the seventh but failed to capitalize as the Aggies escaped the inning unharmed.
The Razorback offense just couldn’t deliver enough in crunch time. It left seven runners on base Friday night, going 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
Taylor pitched two hitless frames in relief of Noland to preserve the Razorbacks’ second combined two-hitter of the 2022 season. The Arkansas pitching staff also accomplished the feat in a win over Grambling on March 15.
Arkansas vs Texas A&M Game 3
Time: Sunday, April 24 (1:00 p.m.)
Watch: SEC Network+
Texas A&M: RHP Micah Dallas (4-1, 4.61 ERA)
Arkansas: RHP Jaxon Wiggins (5-0, 4.66 ERA)
Game 3 Prediction:
Jaxon Wiggins has been solid all season. Like Smith, he had his worst start at Florida but responded well last weekend.
He worked out of traffic all game and escaped with only two runs allowed over 5.1 innings. Nine strikeouts helped him escape from multiple jams.
Micah Dallas has struggled for Texas A&M in conference play. He has allowed 21 runs over 26.1 innings for a 7.18 ERA. In his most recent start, he allowed five runs over three innings to Georgia.
Despite the elevated ERA, Texas A&M is 9-1 when he appears and 8-1 when he starts, including going 4-1 in conference play.
After a 6-0 start with Wiggins starting, the Razorbacks are 7-2 with the 6-6 righty on the mound. Wiggins only gets an average five runs of support in his starts.
Score Prediction: Arkansas wins 8-6
The Razorbacks and Aggies may be set for a battle of offense vs defense as the Arkansas pitching staff looks to keep their momentum and the Texas A&M lineup tries to keep their hot streak going.
The Razorbacks, on the whole, have been the better team this season. They have more runs per game, home home runs and a better team batting average. The Razorbacks have a team ERA about a run lower than the Aggies, with a 3.31 compared to the 4.25 mark for Texas A&M.
However, Texas A&M’s offense is red-hot. They have 37 runs in the past two games and are scoring nearly 12 runs per game in their recent 5-1 stretch.
The Razorbacks have also struggled pitching on the road this season. Smith and Wiggins both had their worst starts at Florida a couple weeks ago. Signs would point to the Aggies taking home the series, except that the Razorbacks are incredibly resilient. They are ranked No. 4 for a reason and have been able to match extremely high expectations all season.
Series Prediction: Arkansas takes two of three behind an all-around effort.
Background for Arkansas vs Texas A&M
Heading into the series, the Razorback pitching was dominant in a three-game sweep with LSU and wipe-out of Arkansas State, but the Texas A&M offense is on fire as of late. These recent trends have set up a possible match-up of offense versus defense.
Senior starting pitcher Connor Noland took a no-hitter deep into the sixth inning against the Tigers. He was outshined by freshman Hagen Smith who tossed seven shutout frames in just two hits and was named national pitcher of the week. Sophomore pitcher Jaxon Wiggins danced around traffic all game Saturday but managed to make it out with only two runs allowed.
Out of the bullpen, emerging star and freshman pitcher Brady Tygart has been dominant. He closed games one and three vs LSU. Over 20.2 innings, Tygart has a 1.74 ERA with 28 strikeouts and has not allowed a run in nine of 11 appearances. The Aggies are 5-1 in the past six games with three wins by 13 or more and averaging 11.7 runs per game in that stretch. They run-ruled No. 23 Dallas Baptist 14-1 on Tuesday to give them a 7-2 record against ranked teams.
Texas A&M Baseball Heating Up
The entire A&M offense is clicking right now. They have 37 runs on eight home runs in the past two games. Sophomore outfielder Logan Britt had three home runs and seven RBIs in those games. Sophomore second baseman Ryan Targac has three home runs and 11 RBIs in the past six games.
The Aggies have five starters hitting over .300 currently, including team-leader sophomore first baseman Jack Moss, who is hitting .380. He will enter Friday with a seven-game hit streak where he is 12-33 with seven RBIs.
Other notable Texas A&M baseball hitters include senior left fielder Dylan Rock bats .347, who leads the team with nine home runs and 31 RBIs. He has three home runs and 12 RBIs over the past six games.
Junior designated hitter Austin Bost will enter the game with an 11-game hit streak, where he is hitting .450 and is 13-22 in the last six games. That streak bumped his average up to .325 for the year. Also on a hot streak, senior catcher Troy Claunch is hitting .364 with 15 RBIs over the past 11 games.
Arkansas Baseball Offense No Slouch
The Razorbacks also have a good offense to go with their excellent pitching staff. The Hogs have 56 home runs and a .285 batting average. Those marks both beat the Aggies’ 34 home runs and .280 average.
Senior designated hitter Brady Slavens was 21-45 before a rough outing Wednesday, after his slow start and he had four home runs in the last five games of that streak.
Against LSU, senior catcher Michael Turner was 5-11 and Cayden Wallace was 5-13. Recently, junior left fielder Zack Gregory has been showing off his power, hitting four home runs in a seven game stretch.
However, there have been some struggling Razorbacks as well. They have faced some good pitching recently with LSU.
Freshman first baseman Peyton Stovall has been streaky all season and is currently in a cold streak, going just 2-18 over his past six games.
Wallace has led the team in recent weekend series, but was just 1-9 against Arkansas State. Junior second baseman Robert Moore has been on an opposite trend. He was 3-9 vs the Red Wolves but is 8-48 in the last 14 conference games, including a 2-9 against LSU.
Similar to what Slavens has done in conference play, senior outfielder Braydon Webb started the year cold but went on a monster hot streak. Recently, he seems to have cooled off a bit. He is just 4-23 in the past six SEC games.
More on Arkansas baseball here: