With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, the Diamond Hogs strung together an impressive five-run rally powered by a pair of home runs to take a lead they would not return to the Crimson Tide over the course of their 7-3 series-opening victory Thursday night at Alabama.
The Arkansas offense continued its anemic streak going back to last weekend against Vanderbilt, being retired in order for the first four innings by Tide hurler Garrett McMillan.
Redshirt sophomore Will McEntire worked a clean first inning on the mound despite incurring a slight jam, but ran into trouble in the second.
After back-to-back Alabama singles to lead the inning off, Tommy Seidl sent a bouncing RBI double over sophomore Cayden Wallace’s head at third base to get the scoring underway.
That was not all for the Crimson Tide in the bottom of the second, though. McEntire managed to strike the next batter out, but Alabama leadoff man Caden Rose sent another RBI knock into left to give the Tide an early two-run lead.
With the Hogs’ offense continuing to struggle in the top of the fourth, Alabama put together a two-out rally in the bottom of the frame.
McEntire forced two quick outs on grounders, but a double from Rose kept the Tide’s at-bat alive. William Hamiter then turned a fastball off his hands into a single, driving Rose home and extending Alabama’s lead to three runs.
“The first four innings were outstanding,” Alabama head coach Brad Bohannon said. “There were four no-hit innings and we scored in the second and the fourth. But we probably left a little meat on the bone by not getting another run or two.”
Arkansas finally got on the board in the top of the fifth after a leadoff single by graduate senior Chris Lanzilli. Freshman Peyton Stovall and Wallace provided a five-run, two-out rally after the former hit a no-doubt two-run shot, and the latter nailed an even more impressive three-run bomb way over the left field wall.
“We felt like we’ve been down, what, five runs three games in a row?” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “We were due.”
Graduate senior Kole Ramage was then called upon to relieve McEntire, retiring three batters in order to work a scoreless bottom of the fifth.
After Ramage walked a batter and got the next man to strike out, senior Evan Taylor entered the game on the mound.
Taylor operated around sacrifice bunt attempts from Bryce Eblin to strike him out too. Rose followed the strikeout with a two-out single, putting runners on the corners, but Taylor struck Hamiter out looking to close out the sixth.
The Hogs could not do anything with a leadoff single from graduate senior Braydon Webb in the subsequent half-inning. Taylor worked a 1-2-3 frame to follow it up, so the Razorbacks maintained a two-run lead going into the eighth.
Crimson Tide pitcher Jake Leger retired Wallace, graduate senior Michael Turner and junior Robert Moore in order, so the Tide was down to its final six outs to get a rally going.
A blooped leadoff double from Andrew Pinckney gave Alabama some life to lead off the inning, but Taylor struck out Jim Jarvis in the next at bat to squelch the momentum.
Freshman Brady Tygart then entered the game to close it out and did his job, utilizing his curveball to strike out Seidl and the pinch-hitting Owen Diodati.
Senior Brady Slavens provided an opportunity for insurance in the top of the ninth with a one-out double. Webb then followed it up with a walk and Stovall struck out looking to end Leger’s mostly effective outing.
The right-handed Luke Holman came on to face senior Jalen Battles, but he overcame the right-on-right matchup and smoked a two-run double through the left-center field gap to extend the Arkansas lead to four.
“What a relief when that ball headed to the gap,” Van Horn said. “It gave us a three-run lead, then all of a sudden a four-run lead. It took a lot of pressure off the team and Brady out there. Just a really good job.”
Tygart issued a leadoff walk to begin the bottom of the ninth but forced three consecutive outs after that to put the finishing touches on a 7-3 Arkansas victory in the series opener.
First pitch of the sequel is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday evening and will be broadcast live on the SEC Network.
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