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Pair of Freshman Lead Hogs to Victory

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The game was delayed 15 minutes from an earlier rain, but the damp weather did not mess with the Arkansas Razorbacks’ bats. The Hogs exploded for 20 hits in an 18-1 victory over the Dayton Flyers on Wednesday.

Razorback freshman pitcher Caleb Bolden began with two strikeouts in the first inning after not recording any in a three-inning relief appearance against Bucknell on Feb. 18.

Sophomore designated hitter Evan Lee got things started in the bottom of the second with a flare into short center. A couple batters later, junior third baseman Hunter Wilson drew a two-out walk. Freshman second baseman Casey Martin took an outer-edge pitch the other way into the Hog Pen to open up a three-run lead. It was Martin’s second home run of the year.

Things continued to unravel from there for Flyer sophomore pitcher R.J. Wagner. Arkansas junior shortstop Jax Biggers singled, junior right fielder Eric Cole drew a walk and freshman left fielder Heston Kjerstad hit a ground-ball single past the shortstop to score Biggers. A mound visit didn’t stop the Razorbacks’ flow, and senior first baseman Jared Gates hit a double to the wall that brought in two more runs. That was all for Wagner, who gave up seven earned runs in 1 2/3 innings.

The Flyers brought in sophomore pitcher Jordan Cox to try to stop the bleeding. Cox promptly gave up an RBI double to sophomore center fielder Dominic Fletcher and a single that went just out of reach of the third baseman off the bat of Lee, scoring Fletcher.

“It was a great inning for us,” Razorback manager Dave Van Horn said. “Anytime you can put together an inning like that, I think we got six hits in a row and they really weren’t cheap.”

The Razorbacks’ hitters were relieved to be able to score runs early and often after a rough patch, Martin said.

“Once one person gets going it kind of just starts a trend,” Martin said.

Fletcher led off the bottom of the 4th with a sharp single. The hit ended Cox’s outing, and he was replaced by junior Tyler Henry. After a balk and a walk to Lee, Henry was replaced by freshman Jonathan Brus. Fletcher and Lee advanced on a wild pitch, and Wilson’s hit got past the shortstop to score another run. Martin brought in Lee with a fielder’s choice to cap the scoring in the inning.

The 10-run lead allowed Van Horn to give backups a chance to play. Freshman infielder Easton Murrell went to second base, and junior Zack Plunkett came in to catch.

The subbing continued in the bottom of the fifth. After a scorching single by Kjerstad, freshman infielder Casey Opitz came in to pinch run. Sophomore infielder Jordan McFarland came in for Gates and singled. Flyers manager Jayson King had seen enough and brought in sophomore Brian Wood to pitch. Fletcher got an RBI groundout and Lee, followed with a single to knock in another to stretch the lead to 12 runs. After Wilson got hit by a pitch, King brought in senior pitcher Masashi Sakamoto. A slow roller by Martin was misplayed by the second baseman, scoring Wilson and Lee and prompting another pitching change to senior Mason Kutruff, who got out of the inning.

Bolden gave everything Van Horn could ask for with six innings, giving up seven hits, no runs and striking out six Flyers.

“He came out and threw a lot of strikes,” Van Horn said. “He just kept going out there and doing his job.”

Freshman Zebulon Vermillion took over and pitched the final three innings. He gave up three hits, had an unearned run and struck out three.

Kutruff got two quick outs in the bottom of the 7th. He had Hunter Wilson struck out, but Wilson reached first base on the wild pitch. Martin followed up with a line-drive home run into the Hog Pen, his second home run of the game and third of the season. That was the end for Kutruff and the Flyers brought in senior Danny Hentz, Dayton’s eighth pitcher of the game.

McFarland got hit in the back to begin the bottom of the eighth. Freshman outfielder Cole Turney walked. Dayton brought in freshman Aaron Ersnt, who promptly gave up a single to bring in another run for the Hogs.

The Flyers made their final attempt with one out in the top of the 9th. Sophomore infielder Nick Spiliotis got an RBI single to break the shutout. Vermillion got sophomore shortstop Brantley Johnson to ground out to end the game.

Lee and Kjerstad both went 3-3 for the Razorbacks. Martin went 2-5 with two home runs and a team high six RBIs.

The Razorbacks play game two against the Dayton Flyers tomorrow with freshman Hunter Milligan getting the start. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on SEC Network Plus.

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