The top-ranked Razorbacks had a rough night at the plate Saturday, falling 7-3 to the Georgia Bulldogs. After chasing the Georgia starting pitcher in the third inning, the Arkansas bats fell silent against lefties Jaden Woods and Ben Harris, who teamed up for 6 ⅓ scoreless relief innings.
“They got after us with runners in scoring position,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said after the game. “We just had trouble putting the barrel on the ball.”
The Bulldogs opened the scoring with a solo home run off the bat of second baseman Josh McAllister in the first inning, but they were not in control for long. The Razorbacks jumped all over righty Jonathan Cannon, scoring three runs and forcing Georgia head coach Scott Stricklin to yank him before the third inning had reached its end.
Arkansas sophomore right-hander Peyton Pallette settled down after the early homer, stranding three runners and piling up eight strikeouts through four innings. After a leadoff single in the fifth, he threw designated hitter Fernando Gonzalez a high fastball, which Gonzalez got a piece of and redirected straight to home plate umpire Ronnie Teague’s mask, sending him to the ground.
“It did kind of kill our momentum,” Van Horn said. “We had the lead, things seemed to be going our way a little bit, but that didn’t make the difference in the game.”
Teague sat on the field for several minutes before being helped up and walking off with the support of the two teams’ trainers. Pallette never quite found his rhythm after the delay, surrendering three hits, one of which turned into a little league home run. McAllister tapped a chopper to the third base side of the mound, and Pallette chucked it into right field trying to throw him out. Sophomore second baseman Robert Moore airmailed third base, allowing McAllister to trot home and tie the score at three.
Junior righty Ryan Costeiu put an end to the fiasco in the fifth with a strikeout, and worked a perfect sixth before trouble struck in the seventh. He walked the leadoff hitter, and Gonzalez laid down a sacrifice bunt, prompting Van Horn to turn to sophomore lefty Zack Morris. Georgia center fielder Ben Anderson, who had not recorded a hit in the series, sent the first pitch Morris threw sailing over the right field fence to make it a 5-3 ballgame.
Woods and Harris issued three free passes with two outs to load the bases in the seventh, but the Hogs could not convert on their best chance of the night.
Senior righty Zebulon Vermillion tossed a perfect eighth inning, before getting smacked around in the ninth to the tune of four consecutive singles. The Bulldogs scratched across two more runs to reach the final score of 7-3, and Harris worked a perfect ninth to seal the series-tying win.
Van Horn said it felt like his team beat itself. “You make two errors on one play, and all of a sudden the game’s tied, and they don’t hit a ball out of the infield” he said. “Kind of a momentum-killer on our end. It really fired them up, and their relievers came in and shut us down the rest of the game.”
The series-deciding game between the Razorbacks and Bulldogs is set for 2 p.m. Sunday. Arkansas junior right-hander Caleb Bolden will square off against Georgia ace Ryan Webb on the mound. The game can be streamed on the SEC Network+, available via WatchESPN.com.