By Nate Allen Sports
FAYETTEVILLE – Regardless whether you call the Trojans by their University of Arkansas-Little Rock given name or the Little Rock they prefer, call them victors vanquishing the Arkansas Razorbacks.
In the first official baseball game ever between the University of Arkansas’ Fayetteville and Little Rock campuses, Little Rock of the Sun Belt Conference pounded, 17-7 the reigning national runner-up currently nationally ninth in the Coaches poll Razorbacks of the SEC Tuesday night at Baum-Walker Stadium.
The victory only upped Coach Chris Curry’s Trojans to 11-18 going into their 3-game Sun Belt series starting Friday at Texas-Arlington but you wouldn’t know it by Tuesday’s trouncing of the reeling Razorbacks. Little Rock lashed 16 hits against eight pitchers and four times posted crooked numbers with three runs in the third, four in the fifth, five in the seventh and four in the eighth.
The Trojans celebrated their epic upset become a rout accordingly.
“It’s one that your program talks about maybe for years to come,” Curry, a former volunteer Razorbacks volunteer assistant to Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn, said. “I’m happy for our players. I’m happy for how hard they played. From where this program was five years ago when we took it over to now being able to compete n this stage — and tonight not only compete but win — I think speaks volumes for our players.”
Arkansas aided its rival’s cause by committing four errors and stranding 14 runners.
“We didn’t give ourselves a chance to win,” Van Horn said. “We made mistake after mistake in the field. We booted a doubleplay ball. We don’t hit the cutoff man from left field and the guy gets to walk in from second base. We kick a ball at short. We made some critical errors. But really what we did, we pitched behind all night. A lot of 2-0 counts and 3-1 counts. they were in really good hitters counts and they took advantage of it and swung the bats well and put together a couple of big innings.
Van Horn’s Razorbacks, 22-7, but now on a 3-game losing skid dropping the last 2 of their 3 game SEC series to Ole Miss at Baum-Walker, play the Auburn Tigers in a 3-game SEC West series Thursday through Saturday in Auburn, Ala.
Troy Alexander’s grand slam off Kole Ramage in the fifth put the Trojans up 7-6. The Trojans broke it open with a 5-run seventh started by an Alexander double and including two of Arkansas’ four the games errors and a short foul sacrifice fly caught by third baseman Jacob Nesbit falling down and unable to throw home.
Little Rock lefty Ethan Daily, coming out of the bullpen with an 0-3 record and 11.77 earned run average, defused the Razorbacks inheriting a bases loaded fifth inning jam and consecutively by retiring Razorbacks Preseason All-Americans Casey Martin, Heston Kjerstad, and Dominic Fletcher without a run scored.
“Bottom line we’ve got to score at least one, maybe two right there because we have three of our top hitters coming up,” Van Horn said. “2-hole, 3-hole and 4-hole and we strike out, pop up and ground out. When your 9-hole hitter (left fielder Christian Franklin, usually ninth but batting eighth Tuesday is leading the team in RBIs, that kind of tells you something.”
Other than Jack Kenley’s solo home run for Arkansas in the eighth, Daily dazzled going the final five innings allowing two hits and striking out seven against one walk and a hit batsman.
“Boy, he had a great night tonight,” Van Horn said. “Give him credit, he’s a senior and he pitched five innings and he found ways to finish our guys off.”
Little Rock starter McKinley Moore clocked one 98 miles per hour fastball but five walks in two plus innings walked him out of the game in the third.
Martin 2-out doubled two home to left after Moore walked the bases loaded in the second, but Trevor Ezell, running from first, round third too far and got nailed for the third out trying to scramble back.
Little Rock took a 3-2 lead off Arkansas starter Patrick Wicklander in the third. The Trojans were aided by Arkansas left fielder Franklin muffing a routine fly in short left, and a hit batsman and walk loading the bases for Riley Pittman’s sacrifice fly followed by Nick Perez’s fly ball landing in front of right fielder Kjerstad for a 2-run single.
Ramage relieved Wicklander with one out and two on of a scoreless fourth.
Meanwhile the Razorbacks scored four in the third. Dillon Delgadillo replaced Moore after a leadoff walk to Kjerstad. Dominic Fletcher also waled and Matt Goodheart singled one home with second baseman Chase Coker’s error putting runners at second and third for Jack Kenley to single home. Backup catcher Zack Plunkett, starting for rested regular Casey Optiz, netted the inning’s final run on a sacrifice fly.
Deftly pitching out of the fourth inning jam, Ramage absorbed damage retiring nobody in the fifth. A walk, two singles and Alexander’s grand slam over right put Little Rock up 7-6 and Ramage out of the game.
Arkansas in its fifth loaded the bases with none out against reliever Ty Gordon when Daily muted the three All-Americans. Daily struck out Martin, retired Kjerstad on a fly to left barely over short, and got Fletcher grounding out.
From then on it was all Little Rock in Fayetteville.
By Nate Allen Sports