Nate Allen Sports
FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas Razorbacks pitchers Patrick Wicklander, Kole Ramage, Kevin Kopps and Jacob Burton combined for a 2-hit shutout through eight innings before the University of North Carolina- Charlotte 49ers scored twice in the ninth.
That was far too little, too late for the 49ers as Arkansas prevailed, 9-2 Wednesday afternoon at Baum-Walker Stadium.
Freshman left fielder Christian Franklin 3 for 4 with a single, double, triple and three RBI, and Trevor Ezell and Dominic Fletcher, each with a home run, provided the heavy as the Razorbacks tallied nine runs on nine hits.
Coach Dave Van Horn’s Razorbacks advance to 10-1 and host the 9-3 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in a 3-game series at 6 p.m Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday at Baum-Walker.
The 49ers of Conference USA who beat last year’s national runner-up Razorbacks in Charlotte, fall to 6-6.
Freshman lefty Wicklander battled past leadoff walks the first three innings to limit Charlotte to a bunt single while striking out eight through five complete innings to record the victory. Ramage and Kopps each threw a hitless/scoreless inning and Burton a 1-hit inning before two runs, aided by an error, and knocked in via one hit, off reliever Liam Henry, and one groundout, were charged to Arkansas freshman reliever Carter Sells who opened the ninth and retired one batter.
“I thought we played a good ballgame, Van Horn said. “That’s a solid team and we just got some big hits. I felt like Patrick Wicklander had really good stuff. He just didn’t command some of it. He walked the first batter the first three innings but he bounced back and they didn’t score a run.”
Although he went 0 for 4, Arkansas sophomore Preseason All-American shortstop Casey Martin “made the play of the game,” Van Horn said, right after Tommy Bullock’s third-inning leadoff walk.
Carson Johnson, a Springdale High graduate playing second base for Charlotte, hit what initially appeared would be a single up the middle that Martin snagged and flipped to second baseman Jack Kenley pivoting and turning a doubleplay with Arkansas then only leading, 1-0.
“That was a big-time momentum swing, Van Horn said. “That was a big-time defensive play.”
“That was huge,” Wicklander said, citing the dangerous what-ifs. “But as soon as I could see the ball in Marty’s glove I thought, ‘ OK, we at least got one, possibly two here.”
Mountain Home native Charlotte lefty starting pitcher Ryan Czanstowski, a teammate at Connors (Okla.) State Junior College with Springdale’s Johnson before both transferred to Charlotte, pitched a 1-2-3 first.
However Czanstowski paid a price walking the first two batters in the second. Trey Harris bunted them over. Jack Kenley’s sacrifice fly scored one sufficing to charge Czanstowski, 0-1, with the loss.
Against reliever Patrick Sczcyzpinski, who had opened the third, Arkansas scored one in the fifth. Harris and Kenley had singled and been bunted to second and third by Nesbit when Franklin hit a fly ball the wind downed in shallow right that right fielder Dominick Cammarata nearly caught but couldn’t. One scored for Franklin’s RBI. Kenley, fearing the ball would be caught, could only take third while Franklin never stopped and hustled it into a double.
Ezell’s leadoff home run off Sczcyzpinski in the seventh launched a 5-run inning against three 49ers pitchers. Nesbit, up with two outs and on two on with walks, singled one home. Franklin tripled home two and trotted home as reliever Colby Bruce was charged with a walk. Fletcher hit his 2-run home run off Chase Gooding in the seventh.
“The triple, I got froze first pitch with the slider so I figured the he would come back with that again and I was sitting on it,” Franklin said.
Franklin admitted being go for the cycle home run happy his last at bat taking two mighty swings with Arkansas up 9-0 before caught looking at Strike Three.
“Yeah, something like that,” Franklin laughed of being aware of the cycle. “I was trying a little too hard.”
It was an opportunity earned with what he had done to build the lead.
“He had a couple of really big hits,” Van Horn said. “He got the first hit for us. Got the big triple there that kind of finished it off so to speak with the big inning.”
Nate Allen Sports