The Arkansas Razorback baseball team improved to 5-0 on the year with its second straight win over the Gonzaga Bulldogs on Friday afternoon.
The game looked like it would be a pitchers’ duel after the first three innings as Arkansas sophomore Connor Noland and Gonzaga senior Mac Lardner combined to allow just five baserunners, only one of whom reached on a hit.
“[Lardner]’s that left-handed pitcher that you really don’t want to see, because he can make you feel bad about yourself honestly,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said.
Arkansas opened the scoring in the bottom half of the fourth inning on a single by sophomore outfielder Christian Franklin. Junior designated hitter Matt Goodheart scored the run after being hit by a pitch with one out in the inning.
The Bulldogs tied the game in the top of the fifth with a pair of two-out singles. The run went down as unearned because of a throwing error by junior catcher Casey Opitz when he tried to throw out Gonzaga shortstop Ernie Yake stealing second base.
The Razorbacks sent nine men to the plate in the bottom of the fifth and scored four times.Opitz, senior first baseman Cole Austin, freshman second baseman Robert Moore and junior outfielders Heston Kjerstad and Braydon Webb all reached base to begin the frame. Moore and Webb drove in a run apiece, Moore scored on a wild pitch by Lardner and sophomore outfielder Christian Franklin brought Webb home with a sacrifice fly.
Gonzaga kept the pressure on in the sixth, however. Noland walked the leadoff hitter and Bulldog first baseman Gabriel Hughes took him deep to left field to cut the Razorback lead in half.
In the bottom of the sixth, Opitz led off with a triple to right-center field. Moore drove him in with another single to extend the lead to three runs before a Webb sacrifice fly plated Austin, who walked earlier in the inning.
Van Horn turned to junior right-hander Marshall Denton to relieve Noland after six innings of work. Noland picked up his second quality start and second win of the season, allowing five hits, two earned runs and three walks while striking out three Gonzaga hitters.
“I didn't feel too good today. I didn't really have my stuff going,” Noland said. “I was just trying to get as many innings as I could to help our bullpen for a four-game series. I wish I could take a couple of pitches back, but that's just baseball.”
Van Horn was much more complimentary of his ace’s performance, however, praising Noland for getting through six innings.
The seventh inning saw two more Razorbacks come around to score. Franklin doubled to left-center field and scored on Opitz’s third hit of the afternoon, a two-run bomb over the right field fence.
Van Horn said Opitz was the hitter of the day for the Razorbacks, noting that his catcher was
just a double shy of hitting for the cycle.