In the first game of their SEC tournament, the Arkansas Baseball team made a comeback from a three run deficit defeating Texas A&M 6-5. Sophomore designated hitter Kendall Diggs closed the game in the 11th inning after a walk-off home run.
“It's just doing more of what I can for the team,” Diggs said in a postgame press conference Wednesday. “It's also like you're put in a situation, like it's now or never. I think subconsciously you might lock in a little bit more in those moments, or you know what you need to do and what you want to do.”
Arkansas struggled to get their offense going early in the game, having to rely on small ball to get runners on bases with few hits carrying deep into the field. Fortunately for Razorback fans, there was still a spectacle to see early on in junior center fielder Tavian Josenberger’s circus catch in the far left outfield.
After a quiet opening two innings for both teams, the Aggies would capitalize on two hits to left field that landed out of reach for the Hogs being followed by a walk from Cody Adcock. With bases loaded and no outs, the Aggies hit two consecutive balls thrown by senior Zack Morris and scored three runs off a slow throw from the outfield. Morris responded quickly, throwing two punch outs and getting the Hogs back on offense.
In the fourth inning, the Aggies carried their offensive momentum and scored a one-run homer to take a 4-0 lead over the Hogs. Arkansas responded with a run of their own, but the Aggies held the three point lead going into the fifth.
Down in the dugout, Arkansas head coach Van Horn said he was telling his players to focus on only getting runners on base, a much more feasible goal than aiming for a home run each play. The Razorbacks did exactly that and got the bases loaded. With one out and six seconds remaining on the pitch clock, Wegner put the ball far out of left field, scoring a grand slam for the Hogs to take a 5-4 lead.
“I just made the comment to the guys, ‘Let's get three singles in a row and get out of here,’ and I guess they did not take my advice and decided to hit a homer,” Van Horn said at the postgame press conference. “It was great. When it left the bat, I thought, ‘It was a double, uh-oh, it might go,’ that's what I was thinking.”
Arkansas would respond in the seventh to come from behind and take the lead for the first time in the game. Texas A&M relief pitcher Brayden Garcia would inherit loaded bases from freshman lefty Shane Sdao. A grand slam from senior infielder Jared Wegner would fall after battling back on the pitch count, hitting a fastball beyond the wall for his 48th RBI of the season and first since returning from injury last week.
“With my grand slam, the previous two at-bats I was kind of late on a lot of fastballs, and they were attacking me with fastballs,” Wegner said. “They brought in Garcia, who has velocity, and was kind of hunting a fastball middle-in and got it off on that first pitch.”
The Aggies tied the game back up in the top of the ninth when second baseman Austin Bost connected on the first Morris pitch of the inning, carrying it beyond the left field fence. Arkansas failed to respond, and with that, the game moved to extra innings.
In the 10th inning, the Aggies got a runner on third base, but an attempted steal on second by center fielder Max Kaufer burnt A&M. Junior Parker Rowland hurled the ball to second, easily beating the runner to cost them their third out. Arkansas found quick success in the bottom of the 10th and had runners on second and third with a singular out. Despite being in a favorable position to score, a whiffed bunt went halfway to third base and made an incredibly easy play for the Aggies to throw back home, preventing the Hogs from closing the game.
“I did call the bunt, and we've worked on it a lot,” Van Horn said. “We weren't supposed to bunt it to the third base side. I don't know if the ball ran away, got his bat wrong.”
The game-winning run marked Diggs’ 11th homer of the year and his third game-winner, following a late run scored against Army and a grand slam against South Carolina earlier this season.
“I've been blessed to be put in those situations,” Diggs said, “and I take any of our guys in those situations, as well.”
Four-seeded Arkansas (40-15) will now face two-seeded Louisiana State University (43-13) on Thursday. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network. First pitch to drop at 4:30 p.m.
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