By Otis Kirk
Special to the Nate Allen Sports Service
Arkansas fell behind Alabama 3-0 Thursday night, but then used home runs by Peyton Stovall and Cayden Wallace as well as a double from Jalen Battles to come from behind and take a 7-3 win in Tuscaloosa.
Dave Van Horn was pleased his team was able to fight back and win the game following the slow start.
“Just another really good job of our team hanging in there,” Van Horn said. “They were throwing a perfect game at us through four innings. We’re down three.”
Alabama starter Garrett McMillan was the pitcher throwing a perfect game in the first four innings. Then, in the top of the fifth, Chris Lanzilli singled to break up the no-hitter. Peyton Stovall then sent one over the fence to pull the Hogs to within 3-2. Later in the fifth, Zack Gregory and Battles were on base when Wallace then hit a home run over the fence in left field putting the Hogs up to stay 5-3.
“I felt lucky to be down [only] three,” Van Horn said. “I think in the second inning (Will) McEntire did a great job of getting out of that jam. We could have been down by four real easy. They had one run in, runners and second and third and there weren’t any outs. Credit to him for hanging in there. He fought it. Great job by our offense tonight with two outs. I think we scored all of our runs with two outs. Big swing by Stovall. We kept that inning going with Battles, what should have been a double, but he fell in the box. Ended up with a single, stole second.
“Then a really good at-bat by Gregory. We were just hoping that he would somehow find a way to get on base so Wallace would get to hit. Sure enough Wallace put a really good swing on a fastball in and I mean, he crushed it. All of a sudden we’re up two. The game just flipped.”
Arkansas’ McEntire worked four innings. He surrendered eight hits, two walks, struck out four and allowed three runs, all earned. But it was the work of Kole Ramage, Evan Taylor and Brady Tygart in the bullpen that helped secure the win for Arkansas. Van Horn had announced earlier Thursday that McEntire would start tonight with Connor Noland going Friday, Jaxon Wiggins Saturday and Hagen Smith resting this weekend.
“We made it a couple days ago, but nobody ever asked me,” Van Horn said. “So we didn’t tell anybody. I kept waiting the other day, but nobody said anything, so I walked out and got on the plane. So our thinking was, our thought process basically was that we’ll have Connor stay on his regular Friday night, get his rest. Hopefully he’ll give us some good innings. The last couple of outings haven’t really been typical Connor, so we wanted to get him back on track. And then also let Smith rest a little bit. Probably going to use him out of the bullpen one of the next two days, and then Smith will get a start in the tournament. That was kind of our thinking.”
The three in Arkansas’ bullpen combined to pitch five innings, allow two hits, three walks and struck out eight while shutting out the Tide. Taylor worked two innings, allowed a couple of hits, walked one and struck out four. Taylor (5-0) got the win and then Tygart worked 1.2 innings to secure his eighth save of the season. Tygart walked one while striking out two. Van Horn praised the bullpen.
“They were great,” Van Horn said. “It started with Ramage coming in, giving us one and a third. Got a strikeout there in his second inning, but he also had a walk and we went with the lefty on lefty. Taylor came in and immediately got him out, struck him out. Then I think they got a base hit oppo, and he got the next hitter out. That was big relief. Then we start counting outs and knew we had nine more, something like that. They just really did a good job. They’ve really done a good job all year.”
McMillan (4-5) worked 5.1 innings, allowed five runs on as many hits, walked one and struck out four. Jake Leger and Luke Holman worked out of the bullpen for the Tide.
The Razorbacks were efficient on the day. They scored seven runs on just eight hits while only stranding two. On the other hand, Alabama had 10 hits and left as many on base which left them thinking what if?
Arkansas (38-14, 18-10) and Alabama (27-25, 10-17) will meet again tonight at 7 p.m. televised on the SEC Network. They will then wrap up the regular season with a 1 p.m. game on Saturday.