It had been more than three months since the Arkansas Razorbacks walked off the field at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska, wrapping up their second consecutive appearance at the College World Series.
Eight players on that 2019 team now have contracts with MLB organizations (seven drafted), and six have transferred to schools where they should see more playing time. With players like Dominic Fletcher, Isaiah Campbell and Matt Cronin all turning professional, the 2020 Hogs already look noticeably different.
The Razorbacks returned to Baum-Walker Stadium Friday night to take on the Oklahoma Sooners in a 14-inning scrimmage in their first game action since June. The game lasted just over four-and-a-half hours, spilling over into Saturday morning and resulting in a Sooner victory. Unfortunately for Arkansas, it looked very similar to their most recent performance at the College World Series.
The Sooners opened the scoring in the second inning when sophomore lefty Patrick Wicklander could not contain the bottom of the Oklahoma order. After senior Brandon Zaragoza walked with one out, he scored on a two-out double by Carter LaValley, who hit ninth. Sophomore center fielder Christian Franklin made an excellent throw to his cutoff man, junior shortstop Casey Martin, but Martin double-pumped and allowed the run to score without a throw home.
In the fifth inning, righty Connor Noland gave up a solo blast to leadoff hitter Tanner Tredaway on the first pitch of his second inning of work. Later that inning, Arkansas’ newest graduate transfer, third baseman Cole Austin, led off with a walk, stole second, took third on a bad throw and scored on an RBI single by freshman catcher Dominic Tamez, cutting the Sooners’ lead to one.
The eighth inning saw Oklahoma reestablish its two-run lead, as sophomore righty Jacob Burton allowed four consecutive hitters to reach base. Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn yanked him from the game, the only time either skipper did so mid-inning all night, and junior Marshall Denton took care of the next two hitters to keep the damage at one.
Oklahoma extended its lead in the ninth inning with another two-out RBI. This time, it was Zaragoza who brought first baseman Tyler Hardman home, who doubled earlier in the inning.
The bottom of the ninth featured a triple off the top of the fence in right-center field by junior first baseman Heston Kjerstad. Austin drove him in with a single, and pinch-hitter Curtis Washington got hit by a pitch to bring the lead run to the plate with just one out. That was all the Hogs could manage, losing the nine-inning affair 4-2. In the five extra innings, they held the Sooners scoreless but only added one run themselves. Van Horn said he was disappointed with the lack of offense, but he did not sound dismayed.
“We just couldn’t come up with a big hit,” Van Horn said, pointing to the team’s inability to advance leadoff runners that got aboard as something to improve.
On the other hand, Van Horn had high praise for his pitchers. Even though Oklahoma recorded 15 hits, he said the pitching staff did a great job because Arkansas pitching stranded 16 Sooners.
“I think it’s always good when the pitchers find a way to get out of jams, because runners are going to get on base,” Van Horn said.
Van Horn thinks the pitching staff did a great job of getting out of jams, as Oklahoma stranded 16 runners on just 15 hits, he said.
The OmaHogs drew 6,378 fans to Baum Walker Stadium on Friday night, filling nearly 60% of the ballpark’s capacity.
“There were a lot of people who came out on a wet, windy day,” Van Horn said. “We appreciate it.”
The Diamond Hogs will be in action once again Oct. 12, when they travel to Stillwater for a contest with Oklahoma State for their second and final exhibition game of the fall.