Arkansas vs. Murray State Baseball Series Wrap

Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE – After rallying from behind Friday and Saturday to overcome the Murray State Racers, 7-6 and 11-6, Coach Dave Van Horn’s nationally No. 1 baseball Razorbacks prevailed start to finish Sunday for a 6-0 triumph completing a 3-game nonconference sweep at Baum-Walker Stadium.

Sweeping three from the Ohio Valley Conference Racers, now 5-6, after sweeping four from Southeast Missouri of the OVC at Baum-Walker following sweeping three from Big 12 powers Texas Tech, Texas and TCU in Arlington, Texas has Arkansas breezing 10-0 into this Friday through Sunday nonconference series at Louisiana Tech in Ruston, La.

Nothing breezing about this Murray State series, though, Van Horn said.

“Just really good to get a sweep over a good club,” Van Horn said.

He cited the Racers early leads and three home runs for the first two games, and Arkansas only netting five hits Sunday as not making Sunday’s “a nice, easy win,” as one postgame question implied.

“I wouldn’t call it a nice, easy win because they are pretty physical,” Van Horn said.

One big hit among Arkansas’ five Sunday, a 3-run home run from slumping incumbent third baseman Jacob Nesbit, and sacrifice flies by Brady Slavens, Cullen Smith and Jalen Battles more than sufficed Sunday backing the stellar shutout pitching of winning starter lefty Lael Lockhart, scattering five hits while striking out six vs. a walk through five complete, and relievers Ryan Costeiu, Evan Gray, Kevin Kopps, striking out the side upon inheriting two walks by reliever Nate Wohlgemuth, and Zack Morris, a scoreless inning each.

Van Horn deems Nesbit the best defensive third baseman in college baseball but benched him off an 0 for everything three games in Arlington before starting him Sunday.

“That was big,” Van Horn said of Nesbit’s home run as his season’s firs hit. “His teammates were excited for him. Obviously he’s not known for hitting home runs but he’s gotten a lot of big, clutch hits for us over the last two-plus seasons. That was another one.

Lockhart, the graduate transfer from the University of Houston who had to battle nearly falling off the mound during the previous Sunday’s rain shortened five innings victory over Southeast Missouri State, enjoyed this Sunday’s fun in the sun.

“It was a little bit nicer, that’s for sure,” Lockhart said. “As much as I prefer throwing in the rain, it’s really nice to get out there, sunny day, 1 o’clock, play baseball.”

Especially when he felt right as rain even as the sun shined.

“ I got lucky,” Lockhart said. “Just one of those days when you start warming up and it’s ‘Yes! Get in the pen throwing everything you want to for the most part and then taking that on to the game mound and still having that command you want to have and just rolling from there.”

Center fielder Christian Fletcher’s fifth-inning catch kept Lockhart rolling even as one his changeups got flattened.

“I was just hoping it didn’t get down that’s for sure,” Lockhart said. “That play… it saves runs, it saves pitch count, it saves everything and just go out there and let the defense play.”

Lockhart also cited a catch by left fielder Zack Gregory.

Franklin, 3 for 4 with four RBI including the go-ahead 3-run double,, Slavens, 2 for 3 with a home run, Cullen Smith, a 3-run home run after the Racers raced up, 4-0 and Gregory, a home run, swung Arkansas’ big bats in the 11-6 Saturday victory.

Blake Adams, in relief of struggling starter Caleb Bolden, recorded the win and Zebulon Vermillion a 2 1-3 inning save looking comfortable out of the bullpen following two less comfortable starts.

Benton’s Peyton Pallette, finally scored upon Friday after 9 1-3 shutout innings starting against Texas and SEMO, bequeathed a 3-2 lead that relievers Connor Noland and Morris, though Morris finally extricated the Hogs from the jam, couldn’t hold during Murray State’s 4-run fifth.

Second baseman Robert Moore, 7 for 12 for the series, rescued the Razorbacks with two home runs Friday.

Patrick Wicklander, a scoreless two innings, Kopps, two eighth-inning strikeouts and pitcher of record winner, and Jaxon Wiggins, a 1-2-3 ninth for the save, spelled relief the Hogs required to stay unbeaten.

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