Arkansas bats around in ninth inning, breaks tie, beats San Diego State

The Arkansas baseball team is so loaded, it batted around in the ninth inning without even recording a single hit. That takes talent.

Or a mistake-filled opponent.

The Diamond Hogs scored three runs in the ninth inning to break a 2-2 tie and dispatch San Diego State, 5-2, on Saturday night.

Arkansas’ ninth was just plain odd: four walks, one hit-by-pitch, one reached-on-error, one sacrifice fly. Three runs. No hits.

Casey Martin started it by trying to simply bunt his teammates over in the tie game. Instead the freshman 9-hole hitters, with runners at first and second, pegged one down to third. It was misplayed and Jordan McFarland scored from second and Grant Koch went up to third while Martin stood safe at firs and the Razorbacks had their lead.

Jax Biggers followed with a sacrifice fly to plate Koch. Eric Cole walked. Luke Bonfield was hit by a pitch. In stepped another freshman, Heston Kjerstad, with the bases loaded. He drew a base-on-balls on four pitches to force in a fifth run.

The Razorbacks are now 2-1 on their four-game trip out West. Arkansas beat Arizona on Wednesday and fell to Cal Poly, the Hogs’ first loss of the season, Friday night. They close their three-game set as part of the Tony Gwynn Classic on Sunday at noon against the University of San Diego.

Cole hit a solo home run in the sixth to break a 1-all tie. San Diego countered in the bottom of the inning with an RBI single to set the stage for the finish.

Cole’s homer was just Arkansas’ second hit in the game up to that point. Jax Biggers had led off the game with a double in the first. Cole’s lineout moved him to third and Dominic Fletcher’s sacrifice fly plated him to open the scoring. Harrison Pyatt kept the Diamond Hogs off-balance the next four innings.

Cole took the very first pitch of the sixth from Pyatt to the pull. Over the rightfield wall and it broke the tie. When Pyatt walked Fletcher to follow, he was finished.

Campbell was even better as his foil, though he suffered the same fate. San Diego State tied the game in the bottom half of the sixth after a leadoff double to start the frame and an RBI single followed. Campbell was lifted for Matt Cronin after giving up five hits and striking out seven in his work.

Arkansas had a golden opportunity in the eighth, but failed. The Razorbacks had the bases loaded for Carson Shaddy, who entered the game hitting over .400. But Shaddy took the 3-1 pitch and rolled it over to shortstop for the final out. On top of that, Luke Bonfield – like Shaddy, a senior – struck out looking with two on and one out earlier in the inning.

Matt Cronin worked the final four innings for Arkansas. He didn’t give up a hit and struck out five.

After Arkansas dropped 50-plus runs in its season-opening series against Bucknell, the Razorbacks were top, or near top, of college baseball in offensive categories. It was only natural, given the prodigious output, the rankings would level off. A complete crash back to Earth, though, was not anticipated. Arkansas has scored just nine runs in three games in California so far.

Grading the Hogs

Pitching: B+

Arkansas only gave up five hits, though three of them were pounded for extra bases. What has been most impressive this trip, though, is the staff’s lack of walks. Only one against the Aztecs lineup Saturday.

Hitting: D

Too early to be concerned, but Arkansas isn’t hitting against above-average teams. Bucknell doesn’t count. Biggers had two hits and Cole the other. That’s it.

The Big Stick + The Arm

Arm: Campbell

Blaine Knight is a preseason All-American, but it’s Campbell who makes scouts drool. His stuff, combined with his size, can be devastating. If he stays healthy, Arkansas as a 1-2 punch that almost no team in the country can match.

Stick: Biggers

A 2 for 4 night with a double, an RBI and a sac fly. Good game regardless of what the rest of the lineup did.

What’s next for Arkansas?

Arkansas has a final game out West on Sunday. The finale is against a San Diego team that was picked second in the West Coast Conference, a league that could get two teams into the NCAA Tournament.

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