FAYETTEVILLE – In their first baseball clash since 1948 the University of Central Arkansas Bears struck first but the University of Arkansas Razorbacks struck far more often during Tuesday night’s slugfest at Arkansas’ Baum-Walker Stadium.
So though UCA’s Emmett Connor led off the game homering vs. Arkansas winning starter Kole Ramage, the tally was eventually buried in an Arkansas avalanche of five home runs paced by Robert Moore hitting for the single, double, triple, home run cycle in a 21-8 victory for Coach Dave Van Horn’s Razorbacks.
In six trips to the plate and four official at bats, sophomore second baseman Moore hit for the cycle and knocked in six runs. He also walked and was hit by a pitch and scored four times.
Arkansas shortstop Jalen Battles co-starred hitting two home runs and knocking in four while starting backups Charlie Welch as the DH and freshman catcher Dylan Leach each hit home runs, and right fielder Brady Slavens tripled and knocked in three runs.
The nonconference triumph advances Arkansas, ranked second nationally by D1-Baseball and No. 1 by Baseball America, to 20-3 going into its next SEC West series at Baum-Walker hosting the Auburn Tigers Thursday through Saturday at 6:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 2 p.m.
Coach Allen Gum’s Bears fall to 9-12. They host a 4-game Southland Conference series at Bear Stadium in Conway against Sam Houston State. Game times are 6 p.m. Thursday, a Friday doubleheader starting at 1 p.m. and Saturday’s 1 p.m. closer.
Van Horn lauded the Bears’ hitting and said Tuesday’s game presented a challenge wedged between the Hogs sweeping then No. 3 nationally ranked SEC West fore Mississippi State last weekend in Starkville, Miss. and facing Auburn starting Thursday.
“We were a little worried about this game because we were coming off a really emotional weekend, traveled, just kind of had a re-group day yesterday, a day off,” Van Horn said. “No practice. Then you come out and play on a Tuesday night. You’ve got another big series coming up on Thursday night. So I was just really proud of the guys showing up. Offensively, they just did a tremendous job. We swung the bats really well and hit the ball hard and put together a couple of really big innings. Good win for us.”
And a big night for Moore who had been in a slump.
“Not only did he hit for the cycle, but I like it that he drove in six runs,” Van Horn said. “Those RBIs, that means you’re scoring. There’s been probably a lot of cycles that have been a lot less exciting than his because he was really helping the team win.”
Moore ’s last hit was a 3-run double in the sixth that with a 13-run lead he opted to save as the cycle clincher rather than try stretch into another triple.
“I didn’t pick up Coach (third base coach Nate Thompson) to go to third, as I probably should have,” Moore confessed. “I crept into second and it was probably one of the coolest experiences playing this game.”
Hitting coach Thompson certainly understood. They’ve worked ceaselessly trying to get Moore untracked and shared a moment with time called and Thompson retrieving Moore’s elbow guard.
“ We just hugged each other,” Moore said. “It was a genuine happy moment for both of us. I went through a stretch for awhile where I was struggling and I got with Coach. Coach Thompson believed in me and you know whenever you have a coaching staff that believes in you it’s easier to perform on the field.”
Arkansas’ 7-run fourth-inning appeared to break open a competitive 6-3 game but UCA responded with four fifth-inning runs chasing reliever Caleb Bolden.
Another Arkansas 7-run salvo, this time in the sixth removed all doubt.
Relievers Evan Gray, Evan Taylor and Gabriel Starks, one shutout inning each, blanked UCA from the seventh through the ninth.
The Hogs scored at least one run through the first six innings and pounded 20 hits.
UCA swung some big bats, too. The Bears, 10 hits, netted big nights from designated hitter AJ Mendolia, 4 for 4 with three RBI, and left fielder Kolby Johnson, 2 for 5 with a double and three RBI.
Photos courtesy of Craven Whitlow, CW3, Sports Action