The No. 8 Arkansas baseball team began its 2021 season with a roller coaster of a win against the third-ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders on Saturday night. The game, which began with four scoreless innings, lasted four hours and 18 minutes with a final score of 13-9.
“That’s one of the craziest games I’ve been in in a while,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said in a postgame press conference. “Both teams really didn’t play very well, we didn’t pitch very well...I just loved the way our team kept fighting and fighting.”
The Razorbacks opened the scoring with a bases-loaded walk to senior first baseman Cullen Smith in the fifth inning, but the lead was short-lived. Senior starting pitcher Zebulon Vermillion quickly faded, allowing the first two batters he faced to reach base. No one in the Arkansas bullpen seemed to have an answer for the Red Raider hitters, who responded with five runs in the bottom of the fifth.
The Hogs clawed back in the game with three free passes in the sixth inning, brought home with a wild pitch and a 2-run double by junior shortstop Jalen Battles. Sophomore second baseman Robert Moore brought the game back to level with a sacrifice fly.
Texas Tech responded with a run in the bottom of the sixth to reestablish the lead, but the Razorbacks claimed it right back in the seventh with runs scored on a balk, a wild pitch and a throwing error on the catcher.
Arkansas junior right-handed pitcher Ryan Costeiu, who entered in the sixth inning to limit the damage to one run, surrendered two walks in the seventh and was pulled in favor of junior righty Elijah Trest. With an 8-6 lead, Trest was promptly taken deep to left field, and the lead changed hands for the third time in as many innings.
After a scoreless eighth, the Hogs came to bat needing a run to tie it in the ninth. Senior catcher Casey Opitz and freshman utility man Cayden Wallace both singled to right field to put the tying run in scoring position with no outs. After a strikeout, Battles delivered another big knock to left field, scoring Opitz and knotting the score at nine.
Texas Tech freshman pitcher Andrew Devine threw three wild pitches in the top of the ninth, two of which allowed Wallace and Battles to score. Up 11-9, with two strikes and two outs, senior outfielder Braydon Webb lined a pitch into center field, doubling the Razorback lead.
“I just kind of settled in and relaxed,” said Webb, who was 0-4 prior to that at-bat. “I told myself ‘It’s never too late to have a good day.’”
Trest put a bow on the win with three more outs in the bottom of the ninth. Following the go-ahead home run he allowed in the seventh, he retired nine of the 11 hitters he faced.
“He ended up getting out of the (seventh) inning and gave us a chance to hang around and keep it close,” Van Horn said.
Arkansas will be back in action at 7 p.m. Sunday against the No. 9 Texas Longhorns. Texas dropped its opening contest to No. 7 Mississippi State on Saturday afternoon by a score of 8-3. Junior righty Tristan Stevens will get the ball for the Longhorns, opposite sophomore righty Peyton Pallette for the Hogs.