The Diamond Hogs fell just short of the Texas A&M Aggies, losing two of three games over the weekend at Blue Bell Park, despite a late-game rally Sunday.
Tasked with stifling the red-hot A&M offense in the series opener, senior Connor Noland turned in yet another gem of an outing, but he earned the loss with a lack of run support. Through his first three innings on the mound, he only allowed one batter to reach base.
“Connor didn’t have his best stuff tonight, obviously,” head coach Dave Van Horn said. “I was just proud of him for battling. Just disappointed that we didn’t back it up too much.”
With Dylan Rock at the plate to lead off the bottom of the fourth, an errant throw from sophomore Cayden Wallace — his team-leading sixth error of the season — put a man in scoring position for the Aggies. After letting up two singles and a walk, Noland was charged with two unearned runs.
The Hogs were unable to get anything going against Aggie starter Nathan Dettmer until the top of the sixth. A leadoff single from freshman Peyton Stovall and a subsequent walk by Wallace ran Dettmer from the game.
With Jacob Palisch then in the game, graduate senior Michael Turner came through with a clutch two-out RBI single, putting the Hogs’ first run on the board with Stovall scoring.
That was all the offense Arkansas could muster in the game, as it blew a prime scoring opportunity in the next frame.
Junior Robert Moore was hit with the first pitch in the top of the seventh and he made it to third with no outs thanks to a double from graduate senior Braydon Webb. With runners on second and third and no outs, redshirt junior Zack Gregory and Stovall struck out swinging. Wallace was issued an intentional walk, but senior Brady Slavens flied out to end the threat for the Hogs.
Palisch continued to deal opposite senior Evan Taylor, who turned in two scoreless innings while only allowing one baserunner on a walk. The two unearned runs scored by the Aggies proved to be just enough, as they came away with a series-opening 2-1 victory. It was the first time this season that Arkansas lost when provided at least one RBI by Turner — the Hogs previously held an 18-0 record in those instances.
Game two of the series yielded similar results from both pitching staffs, but Arkansas came out on top in that outing.
Although freshman Hagen Smith only lasted three innings on the bump, a combination of junior Zack Morris, graduate senior Zebulon Vermillion, Taylor and freshman Brady Tygart tossed six scoreless frames to even the series.
The Razorback bats jumped on Micah Dallas early and often, scratching a run across in each of their first three innings.
Senior Brady Slavens continued his hot streak in the two-hole, hammering a solo homer in the top of the first to take a lead the Hogs would not surrender.
Graduate transfer Chris Lanzilli doubled to lead off the second and came home after a wild pitch from Dallas with two outs.
Arkansas’ scoring concluded in the third when Slavens notched his second multi-home run game in 10 days — the fourth of his career with the Razorbacks — with a leadoff shot over the center field wall.
Put in a tough spot in the bottom of the third following two walks issued by Smith, Morris tallied his third win of the season with three nearly flawless innings on the mound.
Vermillion and Taylor then combined for two innings to set Tygart up for the save. Although he allowed a single with two outs, the freshman hurler picked up his sixth save of the year on only 12 pitches, nine of which were strikes, to put the 3-1 win in the books for the Hogs.
Faced with a rubber match, the Hogs were unable to complete a miraculous late-game comeback and lost the finale 11-10.
It began with sophomore Jaxon Wiggins’ worst start of his career, only recording one out while allowing five runs on three hits, three walks and a lone strikeout.
“He couldn’t throw the ball over the plate, pretty simple.” Van Horn said.
Being down by as many as seven runs in the fourth inning, the Hogs began to slowly mount a comeback that came to a head in the top of the eighth. Wallace led the top of the eighth off with a solo shot, which was the beginning of a five-run frame.
A pair of RBI singles from Stovall and Lanzilli put two more on the board, but it was a pinch-hit double from sophomore Dylan Leach that brought the game within a run.
Substituting for Gregory in the third consecutive game, he executed his task on the final try, sending a two-run double into right field with two strikes to make the score 11-10 with no outs.
Even though the Hogs had two runners in scoring position, Webb, Slavens and Wallace all struck out in a row, ending the threat.
Two unearned runs scored by the Aggies proved to make the difference, as Palisch worked a 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth to snuff out the Hogs’ comeback.
“We never quit,” Van Horn said. “Guys were believing. We were right there.”
The Hogs will have an opportunity to bounce back Tuesday night when they travel to North Little Rock to face off with Central Arkansas for the second time in 2022. Although the game will not be televised, a live audio broadcast will be available on the Razorback app. The first pitch of the matchup will take place at 6 p.m. Tuesday.