Braydon Webb

Graduate senior Braydon Webb goes through a practice swing at home plate Sunday during Arkansas’ 4-2 victory over Illinois State.

After a low-scoring, hard-fought weekend, the Razorback baseball team clinched their 2021 opening series with a 4-2 victory Sunday over Illinois State.

There was a lot of traffic on the bases for both teams, but not many runs. The Razorbacks and the Redbirds had to continuously pitch out of jams. Arkansas had at least one baserunner in each inning, and the Redbirds did in seven of them.

The Razorbacks got the bats going after a stagnant first few games, collecting 12 hits in the contest. Senior designated hitter Brady Slavens went 3-3 with a walk and an RBI. Freshman first baseman Peyton Stovall, junior second baseman Robert Moore and senior shortstop Jalen Battles each collected two hits.

“When the wind blows in, sometimes you can’t hit them out (or) hit them far, (so) you have to play a little small ball,” Slavens said after the game. “Even though they might not be your game, sometimes you’ve just got to hit the pitcher’s pitch.”

Sophomore pitcher Jaxon Wiggins started the game for Arkansas. He ended the first inning on two strikeouts, stranding a runner on third.

In the second inning, Wiggins allowed two singles and a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third with no outs. He escaped with limited damage as the Redbirds scratched out just one run to take an early lead.

With runners on second and third and two outs in the third inning, Wiggins ended the frame with a strikeout. The fourth inning started with a double and a walk, but Wiggins escaped on a popped-up bunt, a weak flyout and an emphatic strikeout.

Wiggins ended his outing with his first 1-2-3 frame in the fifth. His final stat line was five innings pitched, five strikeouts, one earned run, five hits and two walks.

“I think (Wiggins’ start) was big time,” senior pitcher Kole Ramage said after the game. “He gave off five hits, but he was able to keep everyone else at bay. I think this was a big time start for him. I think it will really boost his confidence. I think you’ll just continue to see him get better throughout the year.”

The Hogs broke through in the fourth inning, tying the game at 1-1. Moore led the inning off with a double, Slavens singled to move him over and junior right fielder Zack Gregory singled to bring Moore home.

The fourth frame woke up the bats, and the Razorbacks brought home two runs in the fifth when graduate transfer left fielder Chris Lanzilli and Slavens each hit a two-out RBI single. The latter scored Moore, who was intentionally walked earlier in the inning.

Ramage took the mound in the sixth inning and struck out all three batters he faced in the inning.

Ramage allowed two hits on the day, including a leadoff home run in the eighth inning, which made it a 3-2 game, but he bounced back to retire six of the next seven hitters. He went four innings and finished the game with a save and six strikeouts.

“I had pretty much all my off-speed (pitches) working,” Ramage said. “So I was allowed to get a lot of swings and misses and the defense behind me making plays allowed me to go out there and just throw.”

A leadoff walk to Gregory led to an RBI double by Battles in the eighth inning, giving Arkansas a 4-2 advantage before Ramage closed the door in the ninth.

“I think being able to play close games early in the year really helps us when we get into conference play,” Ramage said. “There’s no easy weekend in the SEC, so I think being able to play some really good competition early in the year, get used to playing where it’s a one- (or) two-run game I think is just a big-time confidence boost for us.”

Arkansas will travel to Round Rock, Texas, to play Indiana on day one of the Karbach Round Rock Classic at 7 p.m. Friday. The game will be streamed on FloBaseball.

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