The Arkansas Razorbacks took to the diamond Friday afternoon for the first time in 2020, beginning the four-month campaign to Omaha, Nebraska, home of the College World Series.
Junior outfielder Heston Kjerstad and sophomore pitcher Connor Noland propelled the Hogs to a 5-1 Opening-Day win over the Eastern Illinois University’s Panthers, with the former’s two home runs and the latter’s 11 strikeouts over 6 ⅔ innings.
Arkansas wasted no time getting things going in game two of the series Saturday afternoon, as Razorback junior outfielder Braydon Webb led off the bottom of the first with a homer off the right-field foul pole. Junior designated hitter Matt Goodheart also homered in the first inning, giving the Razorbacks an early 3-0 lead.
A third-inning RBI single from sophomore infielder Jacob Nesbit and a six-run fourth inning allowed the Hogs to cruise to a 10-1 victory and opening series win.
Arkansas freshman pitcher Blake Adams took the mound Sunday as Arkansas looked to sweep EIU. He retired the side in order in the first before giving up a run in each of the next two innings.
“I thought Adams’ first inning was great...and then he got a little bit wild,” Razorback head coach Dave Van Horn said. “Overall on the weekend, I thought we pitched pretty good. I think it’ll get better.”
The Razorbacks opened the scoring in the first inning for the third consecutive game. Webb singled and sophomore outfielder Christian Franklin walked to begin the inning and eventually came around to score.
All nine Arkansas hitters stepped to the plate in the five-run second inning. Junior catcher Casey Opitz led off with a walk, Webb reached on a bunt single and Kjerstad drove them in with a three-run shot to right field. Goodheart and junior shortstop Casey Martin followed with base hits and scored on a Nesbit double.
The Razorback bats went silent for a few innings until the sixth, when Kjerstad launched his second big fly of the afternoon, and fourth of the series, over the visitors’ bullpen in right field. Opitz ripped a double into right field later in the frame to drive in two more runs.
In the seventh inning, freshman pitcher Caden Monke walked the Panthers’ leadoff hitter, who would come around to score.
The run cut Arkansas’ lead to 10-3, but the Hogs quickly extended it again. Kjerstad barely missed his third bomb of the afternoon, instead settling for a two-run double. Kjerstad finished the afternoon 3-5 with six runs driven in.
“He’s just a good hitter, he hits the ball all over the field,” Van Horn said of his star outfielder. “He’s going to be a tough out this year.”
Arkansas will return to Baum-Walker Stadium on Thursday afternoon for a rare four-game series against Gonzaga.
Van Horn called the Bulldogs, who made the NCAA Tournament in 2018, “a step up in competition.”
First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. on both Thursday and Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday. Students can sit in the Hog Pen free and all games will stream live on the ESPN app or WatchESPN.com.