FAYETTEVILLE – With a fifth-inning grand slam, Greenbrier’s Cayden Wallace shattered a scoreless pitching duel propelling the Arkansas Razorbacks to an eventual 8-4 victory Tuesday night at Baum-Walker Stadium in the first ever Arkansas vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves baseball game.
Coach Dave Van Horn’s nationally No. 1 tied with Mississippi State best in the SEC West Razorbacks upped their overall record to 37-9 going into the weekend’s 3-game series Friday through Sunday against SEC East leader Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn.
Coach Tommy Raffo’s Red Wolves fall to 16-25 and in Jonesboro host Georgia Southern in a 3-game Sun Belt Conference series Friday night and a Saturday doubleheader.
ASU starter Tyler Jeans had pitched through two Razorbacks first-inning opening walks and held the Hogs hitless until backup catcher Dylan Leach singled leading off the fifth. Jeans then hit Zack Gregory with a pitch and walked Matt Goodheart before Wallace preached what he practice depositing a 2-1 Jeans pitch for an opposite field grand slam over right.
“If watch us hit early, we have a round that’s pretty much all oppo and he hits them in that net all day,” Van Horn said of his right-handed hitting freshman. “We’ve seen him really develop into a guy that can stay inside the ball and that was a slider he hit. He stayed inside of it and hammered it. We knew it was out right when it left the bat just because of where he hit it. That was really good to see.” Brady Slavens, scoring charged to Jeans, walked preceding Christian Franklin’s RBI double off ASU reliever Brandon Anderson.
Anderson totaled two scoreless innings before Arkansas tallied three in the seventh off relievers Josh Albat and Max Gehler. One scored unearned and one each were doubled home by Slavens and Cullen Smith.
Auditioning as the possible Sunday starter against Tennessee behind Friday and Saturday starters Patrick Wicklander and Peyton Pallette, freshman heretofore reliever Jaxon Wiggins debuted started with two scoreless innings allowing one hit and striking out three against no walks.
Razorbacks relievers Heston Tole, one inning, early season SEC weekend third-game starter Lael Lockhart, two innings and the winning pitcher of record when Wallace homered, and Kole Ramage, one innings, pitched scoreless and hitless through reliever Elijah Trest pitching the seventh.
Trest yielded a walk and Cabot native Blake McCutchen’s RBI double before reliever Zebulon Vermillion retired the inning’s last batter.
Arkansas’ SEC leading defense doubly erred in the eighth.
The Red Wolves pounced scoring three unearned runs off lefty Zack Morris of Cabot. Third baseman Cullen Smith’s drop popup error preceded Liam Hicks’ single and Tyler Duncan’s 2-run double.
Reliever Ryan Costeiu walked his first two batters replacing Morris but should have escaped unscathed but for a rare routine play error by shortstop Jalen Battles scoring Duncan. Costeiu retired his last batter.
Connor Noland, a starter on Arkansas’ 2019 College World Series but struggling this season off a forearm injury, posted his best 2021 outing with a 1-2-3 ninth and including two strikeouts.
“I thought we pitched extremely well,” Van Horn said. “You take away one guy, maybe two, but we threw nine pitchers. I felt like Wiggins came out and did a really nice job. Pretty much sat 96-98. I thought Heston Tole did a tremendous job as well. . Lockhart was as good as he’s been in a while. His stuff was really good tonight. Vermillion came in and just let it go and threw the ball extremely well. Then obviously someone who would stand out a little was Noland at the end. He did a really good job,. Hard slider, fastball 92-93. Pretty much every pitch. It was good. Good to see those guys because we’re going to need as many as we can down the stretch.”
Van Horn credited Texarkana’s Jeans for keeping the Hogs at bay until Wallace’s slam. He winced at the Smith and Battles miscues.
“We had a pop-up that was hit really high right in front of home plate, right in front of the mound,” Van Horn said. “ ‘We could tell the catcher (freshman backup Leach) had overrun it. The first baseman, in our opinion, had it under control and the third baseman came in and called him off and he didn’t catch the ball. Then Battles, he hasn’t made a play like that all year. He tried to take the ball out of his glove to flip it and he dropped it. I guess better now than this weekend. That’s all I can say.”
As for his Game Three starter at Tennessee, Van Horn said it’s first all hands on deck ready to relieve in Games 1 and 2 between the starters and closer Kevin Kopps.
“We’re going to leave it TBA,” Van Horn said. “We’re going to do what we have to do to win Games 1 and 2. If we need Wiggins to close a game or Lockhart, Noland, Vermillion, we’re just going to take it one game at a time. We’ve only got six games left against two really good teams and every win is precious and we’ll try and get them.”