The Razorbacks triumphed over the Golden Lions 12-4 in an in-state matchup with Pine Bluff on Tuesday at Baum-Walker Stadium.
Junior pitcher Caleb Bolden set the tone for the Razorbacks as he shut out the Golden Lions through the first four frames with six strikeouts.
“(Bolden) got us off to a good start,” head coach Dave Van Horn said after the game. “He threw a lot of strikes. He had a pretty good slider going tonight. He was spotting his fastball and kept the balls down.”
The Razorback offense got going early, with five reserves in the starting lineup.
A popup to shallow center field, caught by shortstop Dante Leach, turned into a sacrifice fly for junior first baseman Brady Slavens as sophomore second baseman Robert Moore tagged up from third base and scored to put the Hogs on the board.
“I thought it was a heads up play,” Van Horn said. “What (Moore) saw and what coach Thompson saw… when the ball was in the air, (the) shortstop just continued to drift back under the ball and his momentum was going away from the plate. So he was going to have to stop and set, change that momentum and make a throw accurate to the plate, so they challenged him and it worked.”
Freshman right fielder Ethan Bates brought in another run with an RBI single later in the inning. Junior center fielder Christian Franklin plated a couple more with a two-run single in the second inning to put the Razorbacks up 4-0.
Golden Lion starting pitcher Joel Barker settled in after the rocky start, dealing four hitless frames.
Bolden ran into some trouble in the fifth, giving up a run on a walk and two singles in the inning. He did strike out three in the inning, his last, to give him nine for the game.
Sophomore pitcher Zack Morris came on in relief and struck out four over two perfect innings.
The game got away from Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the seventh inning, when the Hogs scored five runs on just two hits.
To lead off the inning, junior third baseman Jacob Nesbit broke Arkansas’ hitless streak with a single to left field. The next batter, freshman left fielder Zac White got hit by the pitch for the second time in the game, and Pine Bluff went to its bullpen.
Left-handed pitcher Rocky King came in for the Golden Lions. He walked Moore to load the bases before being replaced by right-hander Tony Horn, Jr., who walked in a run and allowed a sac fly to Slavens. Horn was called for a balk, allowing another run to score before junior designated hitter Charlie Welch hit an RBI single.
A throwing error on shortstop Dante Leach that should have been the third out allowed a fifth run to score in the inning, putting the Razorbacks up 9-1.
Freshman pitcher Gabriel Starks loaded the bases on three walks in the eighth before Leach hit a bases-clearing triple past a diving Bates to make it 9-4.
Franklin got all of those runs back with a dinger to right-center field, his team-leading ninth bomb of the season. He finished the game 3-4 with a walk and a career-high six RBIs.
“I thought (Franklin) had a great night,” Van Horn said. “He really stuck with the approach. He stayed through the middle of the field. He singled to center field, he doubled to left-center and his home run was to almost dead right field, straight-away right field. He did a really nice job there to get a walk and six RBIs. That’s a good night.”
Freshman pitcher Heston Tole came in to close the game in the ninth. Despite hitting two batters, he struck out three to end the game. Razorback pitchers struck out 18 Golden Lion batters in the game.
“It was good to see (Tole) come in and put some guys away,” Van Horn said. “Morris came in, I thought (he) threw the ball extremely well, got six quick outs. I knew he struck out three or four. Just a good job by the pitchers.”
The Razorbacks will host game two against the Golden Lions at 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 14. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network+.