Baseball Hogs Win Series

Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE – Two out three ain’t bad they say.

It especially ain’t bad when you’re Arkansas embarrassed, 16-1 by Alabama in your SEC opener Friday night at Baum-Walker Stadium after losing the last two nonconference games.

But beating Alabama, 8-1 Saturday night behind Zebulon Vermillion’s 1-hit pitching through eight innings and beating the Crimson Tide, 3-1 Sunday afternoon at Baum-Walker behind the combined pitching effort of Lael Lockhart and relievers Kevin Kopps and Jaxon Wiggins, brought a smile to Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn.

His nationally No. 1 Razorbacks have righted to 14-3 and 2-1 overall and SEC records with Tuesday night and Wednesday nonconference games against Memphis coming at Baum-Walker and a Friday through Sunday 3-game SEC West series at Mississippi State.

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“Just a great job by the entire team coming back and playing solid baseball,” Van Horn said leading off his Sunday postgame press conference. “Because after what happened Friday, a little bit of an embarrassment, we all felt it. Yesterday pitched great, got a lot of clutch hits. Then really did the same thing today. It really says a lot about the character of our players. A lot of guys that know how to win and want to win. What a great job by our pitching staff the last two days.”

Brady Slavens’ solo home run in the fourth and Casey Opitz’s 2-run single in the sixth provided all the offense that Arkansas required Sunday.

Lockhart, nine strikeouts allowed two hits through 4 2-3 before removed with men on base and the game still scoreless.

Kopps,, the winner in relief, extricated Arkansas from the jam struck out four with no walks and one hit through the eighth.

Wiggins, notching his third save, was tagged for a full count leadoff home run by Sam Praytor in the ninth and also walked a batter but with his 99 miles per hour fastball struck out two including pinch hitter Will Patota to end it.

Friday night heretofore Arkansas weekend ace Peyton Pallette just didn’t have it. Pallette got tagged for four runs including three walks and two hits and was banished during Alabama’s 10-run second inning.

“Obviously that didn’t go very well,” Van Horn said of Friday’s game.

Van Horn said Friday’s only plusses were Patrick Wicklander allowing just a run in 5 1-3 relief innings and previously slumping Preseason All-American center fielder Christian Franklin going 3 for 3 with a home run.

Vermillion evened the score with his 1-run, 1-hitter through a career long eight innings.

Opitz, swung a big 3 for 4 with three RBI stick including a third-inning solo home run breaking the ice off losing starter Dylan Smith.

Freshman right fielder Cayden Wallace of Greenbrier also went 3 for 4 while shortstop Jalen Battles knocked in two runs.

“Great job by Zebulon Vermillion,” Van Horn said. “His fastball was really cutting it tonight.”

Catcher Opitz shrugged off notions he helped talk Vermillion through his masterpiece other then reassuring pitching coach Matt Hobbs there was still gas in Vermillion’s tank as his career high innings mounted.

“I don’t think I talked to him all game,” Opitz said. “He was really in a zone and I didn’t want to mess with that. But Hobbs was asking me, ‘Is he good to go back out?’ Obviously my answer was ‘yes.’ He was the best player of the night and just awesome to see him do that.”

Vermillion said, “ My dugout was right there with me the whole game. Just to have that amount of energy, it really surged me forward.”

All knew with Friday’s fiasco marking a 3-game skid what lay on Saturday’s line.

“They knew how important this game was, and whether they won it or not, we just needed to play better and be more competitive,” Van Horn said Saturday night.

Then Sunday Van Horn said Kopps especially “did a tremendous job. Kopps was the guy we were going to if we got into a jam early. That’s what we had planned and it came through for us.”

Photos courtesy of Craven Whitlow, CW3, Sports Action

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