FAYETTEVILLE – Between squandering Connor Noland’s good start Friday night and never quite recovering from Jaxon Wiggins’ bad start Sunday afternoon, the nationally No. 4 still SEC West leading Arkansas Razorbacks only won one of their SEC West games against the Texas A&M Aggies over the weekend at A&M’s Blue Bell Park at Olsen Field in College Station, Texas.
Coach Dave Van Horn’s Razorbacks lost, 2-1 to Coach Jim Schlossnagle’s Aggies’ Friday night, won 3-1 Saturday and after down 5-0 with Wiggins banished in the first inning and trailing 7-0 after three innings, rallied but fell one short in Sunday’s 11-10 defeat.
In both Arkansas losses the Razorbacks had runners at second and third and none out but were twice stymied by A&M lefty reliever Jacob Palisch. Palisch logged a 4-inning save Friday night on behalf of A&M ace starter Nathan Dettmer. Palisch was A&M’s fourth pitcher used Sunday logging a 2-inning save on behalf of Brad Rudis, the A&M freshman making his first college start.
Arkansas middle reliever Zack Morris of Cabot, three scoreless innings after starter Hagen Smith struggled with five walks in three innings, won Saturday’s game with closer Brady Tygart logging his sixth save behind two solo home runs by Brady Slavens plus one scored on a wild pitch.
Losing two of three at A&M dropped the Hogs to 31-9 overall and 12-6 in the SEC West, their lead over runner-up Auburn, 11-7, reduced to one game with A&M, 25-14 overall, tied for third at 10-8 in the SEC West with LSU.
Coach Dave Van Horn’s Razorbacks next play at 6 p.m Tuesday playing the University of Central Arkansas Bears at the Arkansas Travelers’ Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock and then at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville hosting the Ole Miss Rebels in a 3-game SEC West series Friday night, Saturday night and noon Sunday.
Arkansas vs. Ole Miss game times are 6:30 p.m Friday, 7 p.m. Saturday, televised by ESPN2, and noon Sunday televised by ESPN.
Wiggins, 5-1, has been SEC solid but not Sunday in Aggieland.
Two walks, Jack Moss’ 2-run double and Austin Bost’s 3-run home run plus Ryan Targac’’s single ended his day with just one out recorded.
Reliever Kole Ramage finished the first but was touched for solitary runs in the second, unearned because of an error charged to third baseman Cayden Wallace, and the third.
Meanwhile Rudis debuted his first three innings scoreless, before Greenbrier’s Wallace, 3 for 5 with two RBI including a solo home run, singled home a fourth-inning run,
“It really came down to the starting pitching,” Van Horn said. “If you really take a step back, their freshman, he threw strikes. He got us out for four innings. Our pitcher didn’t throw strikes and he didn’t get people out, and we got behind the eight-ball.”
They never got in front the 8-ball but they came close.
“We started chipping away,” Van Horn said. “We came fighting back. We never quit. Guys were believing.”
A&M scored two in its fourth off usually reliable reliever Zebulon Vermillion.
Jalen Battles belted a 2-run home in the Arkansas fifth.
A&M netted a fifth-inning run on another throwing error charged to Wallace after a stop that Van Horn called, “a great play.”
“To me it looked like his throw handcuffed the first baseman (Stovall),” Van Horn said.
Arkansas scored two in the sixth banishing Rudis for reliever Chris Cortez who would not last through the eighth,
Wallace homered leading off Arkansas’ 5-run eighth including RBI singles by Chris Lanzilli and Stovall and pinch-hitter Dylan Leach’s two run double off just inserted Palisch. Leach’s double advanced Battles (walk) to third still with nobody out and Arkansas now down just 11-10. The runners remained as Palisch struck out Webb, Slavens and Wallace.
“Give him credit,” Van Horn said. “He pitched great.”
Friday night senior right-hander Noland, now 5-2, only allowed two hits and two runs through six complete innings.
He was victimized by what had been, until thidweekend a rare Arkansas defensive lapse by third baseman Wallace and bases-loaded walk lapse of his own during A&M’s 2-run fourth. Rushing his throw, Wallace committed a 2-base error as Dylan Rock led off A&M’s only scoring inning. Troy Claunch’s 1-out single scored Rock. Noland yielded a single and a walk loading the bases before Kole Kaler drew his RBI producing 2-out walk.
Lefty Evan Taylor blanked A&M in the seventh and eighth.
Dettmer proved nigh untouchable through the first five but lost it in the sixth, with Peyton Stovall’s leadoff, single, a wild pitch and a Wallace walk. On came Palisch, untouched other than Michael Turner’s RBI single to retired the side and then strike out Zack Gregory and Stovall and get Slavens to fly out after Robert Moore and Bradyon Webb were on second and third via leadoff hit by pitch and double.
Slavens’ two home runs and a combined six innings of shutout relief from Morris, Vermillion, Taylor and Tygart spelled Arkansas’ successful Saturday.