The Arkansas baseball team’s great start this spring only got better on Saturday, as they beat Texas A&M in a double header to jump to 30-5 overall and 11-3 in conference. The Hogs widened their lead in the SEC West with the wins, opening a 2.0-game edge over second-place Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
Even though Arkansas lost a nail biter in the series finale on Sunday, the Hogs still maintain a one-game advantage over Mississippi State and have the most impressive resume in the nation. This means they will keep their iron-grip hold on No. 1 across all major polls for at least another week.
Here’s how Arkansas went about outscoring the Aggies by a total of 15-1 on Saturday. More about that below:
Arkansas vs Texas A&M (Game 1)
Arkansas scored early and often in the day’s opener, jumping all over Texas A&M from the get-go en route to a 13-0 shutout win.
Brady Slavens drove home two in the bottom of the first on a double to the gap in right center, giving the Hogs an early 2-0 cushion. Matt Goodheart’s solo shot in the bottom of the second was followed by Slavens’ two-run blast, which put the Razorbacks ahead by five after two innings of play.
The Hogs never looked back, holding onto their five-run lead and tacking on more in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth. Robert Moore’s two-run homer in the seventh, which put Arkansas up by 12, was the cherry on top of the game-long offensive onslaught.
13 runs were more than enough for Razorback pitchers Patrick Wicklander, Caden Monke and Heston Tole. The trio combined to strike out 14, shutting out the Aggies while allowing only three hits and three walks.
It was the first Arkansas’ first shutout against an SEC program since a 2-0 win against Missouri on March 15, 2019, at Baum-Walker Stadium.
Arkansas vs Texas A&M (Game 2)
Arkansas proved it can win without double-digit runs in Saturday’s nightcap, riding strong pitching to a 2-1 extra-inning, walk-off victory.
Starter Peyton Pallette was brilliant, striking out seven in six innings of work. The righty allowed only three hits and did not walk a batter in the longest start of his collegiate career.
Goodheart provided Pallette with early run support, launching a homer over the wall in right center in the bottom of the first. His fourth home run in three games put Arkansas ahead, 1-0.
The one-run lead would hold up until the top of the seventh. Kevin Kopps, who entered in relief of Pallette to start the inning, allowed a leadoff home run, which knotted the ballgame at one.
From there, the reliever was nearly unhittable. Kopps closed out the remainder of the game, striking out five while allowing only more hit in his four innings of work to pick up his sixth win of the season.
His dominance out of the bullpen set the stage for Cayden Wallace, who stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the 10th with runners on first and second. The freshman did exactly what was needed.
Wallace put the ball in play, reaching on a fielder’s choice as Texas A&M second baseman Ty Coleman’s errant throw to first base allowed Moore to score the game-winning run from second. (via Razorback Communications)
The Arkansas Baseball Season So Far
This is the best start in Arkansas baseball history. Their short run of losses in mid-March to Louisiana Tech, Oklahoma and Alabama could have been the start of a downhill slide, but instead seemed to show the Razorbacks where their weaknesses were and inspired them to play better.
The Razorbacks’ definitive sweep of the Mississippi State Bulldogs a few weeks ago has set the tone for the season. Baseball America’s No. 1 team, the Razorbacks seemed well matched against the then-No.2 Bulldogs but the Razorbacks swept the series at Dudy Noble Field for the first time since 2010.
An ensuing win against the Central Arkansas Bears on March 30 was expected. Less expected was the tough fight that Auburn put up in their series against the Razorbacks. After losing their first game, the Razorbacks had to win the next two and while they did, it was too close for comfort, coming from behind to win both games by a single run made late in the day.
Coach Dave Van Horn, in his 19th year with the team, seems ready to build on past successes. The Razorbacks have become a standard bearer for the SEC West while making the last two College World Series.
Van Horn’s record as head coach of the Razorbacks sits at 704–389 (.644), placing him in the top 20 winningest active coaches in the division. With Assistant Coach Nate Thompson and Batting Coach Matt Hobbs at his side, Van Horn has a good chance of finally delivering Arkansas baseball’s first national title.
The pitching team for the Razorbacks is well balanced this season, with both right- and left-handed pitchers making their mark. Van Horn has highlighted Connor Noland and Jacob Burton as pitchers with the ability to throw strikes and shape the game. He also just might have a secret weapon in Zebulon Vermillion – a junior with a new kind of pitch.
Jalen Battles is already being heralded as on his way to stardom in the SEC. The young shortstop is a talented defender, likened to Xander Bogaerts of the Boston Red Sox. Battles’ biggest challenge may, ironically, be with the bat. He had a good record at junior college level but will need to increase the power behind his hits if he’s going to maintain those kinds of numbers in the SEC.
Van Horn may feel a bit nostalgic working with the young Battles as both men started their careers playing at McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas before moving to the Razorbacks.
Arkansas Baseball Odds
Betting on college sports can be a fun and exciting way to get involved in the baseball season. While MLB betting obviously dominates the market in the US, betting on college baseball can be just as rewarding.
The Razorbacks have managed to hold on to the No. 1 spot in at least one of the six major polls for the last six weeks. Baseball America has been firmly behind the Arkansas team, consistently ranking them #1. The NCAA Coaches Poll, however, had kept the Razorbacks at No. 2 before they took Ole Miss out with the garbage last weekend.
With the SEC dominating the polls across the board this season – five of the top six spots and seven of the top 25 overall have been taken by SEC teams through most of the weeks – odds are good an SEC team will win the 2021 NCAA College World Series.
If the Razorbacks can maintain the momentum it has going so far, this could finally be their year.