FAYETTEVILLE – The Arkansas Razorbacks before 8,188 Saturday at Baum-Walker Stadium exorcized demons of a 5-game losing streak by pounding 18 hits, playing errorless afield and stifling 15-2 vs. four hits those same University of Alabama Jaguars that routed the Razorbacks, 13-6 Friday here.
The Razorbacks, 8-5 of the SEC, and Jaguars, 8-8 of the Sun Belt Conference conclude their 3-game series at noon today with Kole Ramage starting for Arkansas.
Saturday starter Caleb Bolding, a 4-hitter allowing a solitary run in the first and the sixth of his six complete, with six strikeouts and three walks, and freshmen Will McEntire of Bryant and Blake Adams of Springdale Har-Ber, perfect in relief, supplied Arkansas the quality pitching it lacked Friday.
McEntire in his debut particularly impressed, Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn. McEntire struck out the side on 10 pitches in the seventh, retired the Jaguars 1-2-3 with a strikeout in the eighth and apparently won himself a midweek start vs. Grand Canyon University during the Tuesday and Wednesday series here before the Razorbacks open their SEC season Friday through Sunday at Mississippi State.
“Will McEntire – we’ve been talking about him pitching for two or three weeks,” Van Horn said. “As a matter of fact our plan going into the weekend was we may pitch him an inning here but we’ll probably start him a game at midweek. Now there’s no doubt.”
Adams, in his fourth appearance, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth.
It all started with Bolden, now a possible starter against Mississippi State though Van Horn was encouraged that ailing ace Connor Noland (withheld from this South Alabama series because of a strained oblique muscle) threw a Saturday bullpen session without discomfort.
“We’ll evaluate at the end of this series,” Van Horn said. “He (Bolding) threw a lot of strikes and worked ahead in the count a lot. He got them to swing and they like to swing and he got some quick outs. He did walk three but they didn’t cost us. I’d say more than anything he just kind of pounded the strike zone mostly with fast balls.”
Bolding was proud to be a part, and just a part he emphasized with the Hogs scoring at least once six of their eight innings at bat, of snapping the 5-game losing skid that including falling to Oklahoma Texas, and Baylor at last weekend’s Shriners Classic in Houston then losses at Baum-Walker to Illinois State and South Alabama.
“The stuff we’ve been doing the past couple of games is not Arkansas baseball.,” Bolden, a third-year sophomore from Texarkana, Texas, said. “What we did today is definitely Arkansas baseball. So if we can keep that up we’ll definitely be in good shape.”
Offensively, eight of Arkansas’ nine starters each logged at least one hit. Off the bench, Cole Austin and Curtis Washington each hit their first home runs for 2020. Freshman outfielder Bryce Matthews doubled pinch-hitting Saturday in just his second Razorbacks at bat.
Austin not only homered but regained his first base job. Only hitting .194 before Saturday’s and recently displaced by freshman Zack Gregory, graduate transfer Austin replaced an 0 for 2 Gregory during Saturday’s game and excelled all three at bats
“ It was really good to see Cole Austin come in,” Van Horn said. “He got hit by a pitch on ball four his first at bat after fouling off a bunch of pitches off. In his second at bat, he hits a home run and then he hits a single, a long single.”
Austin will start at first Sunday and always if he’s hitting because at first base “he’s our best defender,” Van Horn said.
USA took a 1-0 lead off Bolden in the first that kept at one by freezing a runner at third on a comeback grounder.
“That was a really good play.” Van Horn said. “That ball was hit hard back at him. They only got one instead of two that was big for us.”
Arkansas tied it 1-1 in the first on successive singles by Christian Franklin, 2 for 4 with a RBI, Heston Kjerstad, 2 for 3 and 3 RBI, and Matt Goodheart, 2 for 5 and 2 RBI.
The Razorbacks scored three in the second off losing starter Miles Smith with Franklin, bases loaded walk, Kjerstad, sacrifice fly, and Goodheart, double, driving in the runs.
Jacob Nesbit bunt singled a run home in the third. Casey Opitz, 3 for 4, singled and scored during the 5-run fifth at the expense of relievers Tyler Trussell and Cale Yarborough.
“ We hit the ball hard all day,” Van Horn said. “I mean you turn that wind around a little bit we would have hit a few more balls out of the park. Really proud of our offense. Kind of relentless, getting the pitchers’ pitch counts up, fouling off pitches. I felt every inning we hit we were a threat and that was really good to see.”
South Alabama…100 001 000 – 2 4 1
Arkansas………..131 052 03x – 15 18 0
Smith, Trussell (3), Yarborough (5) and Powers, Sorrenti (6). Bolden, McEntire (7), Adams (9) and Opitz, Tamez (8)
HR-Arkansas: Austin (1). Washington (1).
W-Bolden (1-0). L-Smith (0-2)
South Alabama…320 322 100 – 13 11 0
Arkansas………..102 010 101 – 6 10 1
Nightengale, Dalton (7) and Powers; Wicklander, Kopps (4), Pallette (5), Adamiak (7), Taylor (8) and Opitz.
HR-South Alabama: Sandle (1). Wilson, 2 (2) (3). HR-Arkansas: Goodheart (2).
W-Nightengale (1-0). L-Wicklander (2-2).