Three different times on Friday night, the No. 6 Arkansas baseball team were down to No. 18 Tennessee. Three times, the Hogs roared back, at last defeating the Volunteers in a slugfest, 11-9, at Baum-Walker Stadium. Arkansas has now won five straight conference games, which gives it a game and a half lead in the SEC Western Division.
The star was redshirt freshman Jacob Nesbit out of Coppell, TX. Nesbit came away with a blistering line, going 3-for-3 with a career-high six RBIs including a double and a home run. His three-run home run in the fifth tied the game at 7-7. “Yeah, great night. I got a fastball and just put my best swing on it and thankfully it went out,” Nesbit said afterward. “The team really put together a good offensive showing today and it was really good to see. It was a fun one for sure.”
In the sixth inning, Nesbit rocked a two-run double to help build Arkansas’ lead to 11-7 at the time.
“He came up clutch,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said afterward. “He got the sac fly and had the three-run homer, the big double down the line, drove in two more. Again, we wouldn’t be sitting here talking about a win if he didn’t have the big night. That’s what it takes, somebody picking you up, somebody having a big night. Tennessee, they came out and swung the bats. It ended up turning into kind of a slugfest. I don’t think either coach probably saw that coming. I know I didn’t.”
Indeed, Tennessee entered the series with the nation’s top ERA, the second best WHIP and the fourth best strikeout-to-walk ratio. The Volunteers’ ace, Garrett Stallings, starts today at 6:30 pm for the second game of series. In Stallings’ six SEC starts, he has a 1.94 ERA and limits foes to a .234 batting average while averaging nearly seven innings.
Jacob Nesbit’s home run was his third of the year and second in three games. Over his last four games, Nesbit has driven in 12 runs on seven hits and is now hitting an even .300 on the year.
Arkansas (32-11, 13-6 SEC) was in a hole early against Tennessee (31-12, 9-10 SEC) as the Volunteers jumped on starting pitcher Isaiah Campbell for a run in the first and three runs in the third inning. Campbell didn’t have his best stuff as he finished with seven runs allowed over 4.2 innings, but only three of those runs were earned.
“Isaiah (Campbell) had been pretty consistent all year, but tonight wasn’t his night,” Van Horn said afterward. “You got to give Tennessee hitters credit because they did a nice job against him. Isaiah just didn’t have the secondary pitches going like normal. He’d probably tell you that he didn’t spot his fastball as much as normal. It just seemed like the zone was pretty tight there both ways. I think it was hard on the starters.”
In the game, Razorbacks came back swinging each time they were down. They matched the Volunteers with a run in the first, three in the third, and again, three in the fifth after Tennessee took a 7-4 lead. The Hogs finally got the big inning in the sixth once Tennessee went to its bullpen as redshirt senior Trevor Ezell hit a lead off homer to give Arkansas an 8-7 lead. That was followed by a Jack Kenley RBI single and Nesbit’s double.
Matt Cronin closed the door for his ninth save of the season after pitching a scoreless ninth and striking out the final two batters. Cronin’s velocity “was up tonight,” Van Horn said. “I don’t know what the gun — we’ll look at ours. Yeah, I mean, he was bringing it a little bit. The other night, not so much. So tonight, I just feel like he had a lot of adrenaline going. I think he was frustrated the way it went the other night as well and he had something to prove. Tonight, he was back to his old self as far as velocity and he threw a lot of strikes as well.”
Hog Offense Keeps Swinging
Arkansas scored 11 times on 16 hits Friday night against Tennessee, its sixth game of its last eight that it has scored 10 or more runs. Six different players recorded multi-hit games, with Jacob Nesbit and Trevor Ezell leading all hitters with three hits each. Four of Arkansas’ last five conference games have resulted in 10 or more runs being scored and Casey Martin leads all hitters during that stretch with a .476 average. Nesbit has 13 RBIs during that span as well.
Ezell Breaks Out Another Three-Hit Game
Redshirt senior Trevor Ezell went 3-for-5 in Friday’s game with Tennessee, scoring twice and driving in one. Ezell has five hits in his last two games and has tallied three three-hit games in his last eight starts. Much of Ezell’s success as of late has been his move to the lead-off spot in the batting order. Ezell made the move on April 2 against Little Rock and since then has batted .333 with nine extra-base hits and 14 RBIs. His homer on Friday was also his first since April 6 at Auburn and fifth of the year
“It shows what we’re capable of doing,” Ezell said. “Isaiah (Campbell) didn’t have his best stuff tonight like he has all year and it was good that the offense was able to pick him up so to be able to do that we feel pretty good about ourselves for sure.”