With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Arkansas sophomore Dylan Leach stepped up to the plate with a chance to score the winning run after the Hogs had scratched three across in that frame. But Leach was unable to create late-game magic, grounding out to the shortstop and cementing a 6-4 midweek loss to Missouri State at Baum-Walker Stadium.
“We’ve got to keep getting better,” head coach Dave Van Horn said. “That’s what I tell them every week. We’ve got to get better. We’re a good team, (but) we’re not special. We’ve got to get better.”
As he had in his previous 2022 outings, Redshirt sophomore Will McEntire started out on a roll, facing the minimum six batters through two innings.
Once the third inning came around, however, he issued a leadoff walk and paid for it. Three hitters later, Spencer Nivens took McEntire deep over the center field wall to give Missouri State an early 2-0 lead. It was the first time in his Arkansas career that McEntire allowed more than one earned run in an outing.
The Hogs responded in the bottom of that frame, however, when sophomore Dylan Leach sent his fourth dinger of 2022 into the visitors’ bullpen to lead off Arkansas’ at bat.
After graduate senior Kole Ramage came in for McEntire and worked a quick top of the fourth, the Razorbacks fell into a 1-2-3 inning of their own.
The Bears tacked on another run in the next inning. Following a loud double from Hayden Moore, junior Robert Moore was unable to corral a grounder as the infield shifted in, and Missouri State scored its third run.
Reece Lang pitched another easy inning in the bottom of the fifth and graduate senior Zebulon Vermillion came on to relieve Ramage after he collected five of six outs via the strikeout.
Although he allowed a single and a walk with two outs, Vermillion was able to get through the sixth inning unscathed.
Eric Loomis then came in to relieve Lang and was very effective, retiring all six Arkansas batters he faced out in a row over two innings of work.
Junior Zack Morris saw some action on the mound fresh off a three-inning appearance Sunday against Mississippi, during which he denied the Rebels any runs. He was not as efficient on Tuesday, requiring 35 pitches for six outs while he had only needed 38 for nine outs in the previous game. Still, he pitched two innings that were clean in the run column, shrinking his 2022 ERA to 0.90.
Sophomore Heston Tole entered the game in the ninth inning and could only muster one out before he was yanked. A gargantuan two-run blast by Drake Baldwin over the scoreboard extended the Bears’ lead to four runs.
“We could kind of feel it coming when Tole got behind him there in the top of the ninth — we were in trouble.” Van Horn said.
Van Horn then called on redshirt freshman Nick Griffin to clean up the final two outs. He could not even manage one, and he was pulled in favor of senior Elijah Trest after a double, a walk and two wild pitches that moved Missouri State’s sixth run across home.
Trest pegged a batter, but was able to get outs on two of three batters he faced and prevent the Bears from doing any further damage.
Although the pitching was mostly serviceable, the Razorbacks could not get anything going offensively. Out of their first eight at bats, they went down 1-2-3 five times and only managed to get three batters on base.
That ineptitude slipped away in the bottom of the ninth, when the bats awoke from their deep slumber.
The pinch-hitting freshman Kendall Diggs got things going with a one-out walk. After he took second on a defensive indifference and graduate senior Michael Turner popped out, Moore singled him home.
Junior Zack Gregory then stepped in the box to pinch hit as well, and he was hit by a pitch and got on base. Sophomore Jace Bohrofen tacked onto the madness by reaching base on a throwing error by the second baseman, loading the bases for senior Jalen Battles.
Battles got the job done after a previously rough night at the plate, hitting a single into left-center to score two runners and bring the score to 6-4.
With the winning run at the plate and the tying run on second, Leach grounded out to shortstop to end the game just short of completing a comeback.
“Losing never feels good,” Van Horn said. “I wouldn’t say it feels weird. We play a lot of games. Missouri State, they just played better than us tonight, in my opinion.”
This weekend, the Hogs will travel to Auburn, Alabama, to face off with the Tigers in a Southeastern Conference West Division grudge match. Following its series win over Ole Miss, Arkansas holds a two-game lead over Auburn and the rest of the division. First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game can be streamed on SEC Network+.
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