FAYETTEVILLE – After opening their baseball season with a 13-9 football score type victory over Texas Tech Saturday night at the 3-day State Farm College Baseball Showdown, the Arkansas Razorbacks went back to baseball basics beating the Texas Longhorns, 4-0 Sunday night at the Texas Rangers’ Major League Global Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
Coach Dave Van Horn’s 2-0 Razorbacks complete the three days joining fellow SEC West teams Ole Miss and Mississippi State against the Big 12’s
Texas Tech, Texas and TCU. The play TCU’s Horned Frogs at approximately 6 tonight.
Brady Slavens’ bat with a RBI single and 3-run home run and the combined shutout arms of pitchers Peyton Pallette, Caden Monke and Caleb Bolden did it all against the Longhorns, long ago Arkansas rivals of bygone Southwest Conference days but still Arkansas’ arch-rival as the Burnt Orange to make Arkansas fans seethe Razorback red.
Benton’s Pallette last week had said, “Growing up my father didn’t want anything in the house that was orange.”
Bolden, growing up on the Texas side of Texarkana Arkansas/Texas split was well aware what Sunday’s success means to Arkansas.
“I know there’s always a big rivalry about playing Arkansas and Texas all the time,” Bolden said during Saturday’s postgame. “And to have a shutout like this on the stage that it’s on that’s huge. I was told after the game that the fans are getting after it and what-not so it’s a good feeling!”
Pallette, Monke and Bolden certainly had Arkansas feeling good.
Pallette for his 4 1-3 innings yielded but one hit and struck out eight vs. a walk and two hit batsman. He pitched out of a third-inning bases loaded jam and otherwise three times retired the ‘Horns 1-2-3 before pitch count removed on his 72nd pitch after hitting a batter with one out and Arkansas up 1-0 in the fifth after Slavens’ 2-out RBI single off hard-luck losing superb Texas starter Tristan Stevens.
“Pallette came out and did about as good as he could do,” Van Horn said. “He did a tremendous job for us, just coming out, throwing strikes and getting us in the dugout.”
Monke, ineffective in middle relief Saturday inheriting a lead from starter Zebulon Vermillion against Texas Tech, Sunday walked his first batted then initially appeared to extricate the Hogs with a 6Ish 6-4-3 doubleplay grounder. However Texas Coach David Pierce requested a review and the batter was deemed safe.
Undaunted, Monke induced an inning ending flout.
“We wanted to show him (Monke) a little confidence,” Van Horn said. “That was good for him and got us through that inning. We didn’t have to bring in Bolden with men on base, which is what we wanted. We wanted to start him fresh.”
Bolden’s fresh start in middle relief put Texas fresh out of luck.
The veteran in contention to start right-hander pitched all the final four innings without allowing a hit while striking out seven against one walk and a hit batsman.
“What I saw was a real good pitcher,” Van Horn said. “His start is coming.”
Bolden said he was fine with Van Horn and pitching coach Matt Hobbs selecting Vermillion, Pallette and vs. TCU started Lael Lockhart to start in Arlington but he did close Sunday’s eighth insisting to finish the ninth.
“Coming basically into the middle of the game, I have the mindset of, ‘This is my ballgame and I’m going to finish it,” Bolden said. “When I came out of the eighth inning, that’s when I told Coach Hobbs, ‘I’m finishing this ballgame.’ And he was like, ‘Yes, yes you are.”
Bolden credited Saturday starter Vermillion with his developing the cutter that sliced through the Longhorns Sunday.
“I was just throwing with Zeb one day and I was like, ‘Hey man, how do you throw the cutter at 90 mph?’” Bolden recalled. “He showed me his grip, so I started messing around with it and it came out so much better than my old grip. Coming from the low three-quarter arm slot that I have, it picked up a good eight inches of horizontal movement on it. I threw it in a bullpen before we came here and Coach Hobbs … He was like, ‘That’s filthy! You need to throw that as much as you can.”
Of course it would have been 0-0 but for Slavens, subbing for Preseason All-SEC designated hitter Matt Goodheart. Goodheart remains Fayetteville with “stomach issues,” Van Horn said. Left-handed hitting Slavens pulled that 2-out RBI single through the right side in the fourth. Then in the sixth off reliever Dawson Merryman, Slavens slugged his 2-out 3-run home run into the right field bullpen.
“The single, the pitcher left a slider up.” junior college transfer Slavens said. “I got it through the hole.”
On the home run, Slavens pulled a faster one on Merryman’s fast one.
“Not missing a fastball when they give you one on the home run,” Slavens said.