Photo courtesy of Wesley Hitt/UA Media Relations
TEMPE, Ariz. – In a back and forth battle that saw the rise of Bo Bigham, who had four hits on the day, and also the clutch pitching of junior transfer, Jordan Pratt, the Razorback baseball team still fell to the No. 1 Arizona State Sun Devils on Saturday night at Packard Stadium, 7-6, in 12 innings. With the loss, the Hogs now have to win two straight on Sunday and Monday, if they plan on making a return trip to Omaha and the College World Series for the second straight year.
Arkansas, who had the lead in the ninth inning with two outs, would fall victim to some key hitting from the Arizona State lineup in the extra frames and not have enough hitting themselves. They would allow a run to cross the plate in the 12th after a Deven Marrero single to the left-center field gap.
After a scoreless first inning, the Sun Devils jumped out in the second to score the first run of the ballgame after a leadoff walk by Arkansas starter Mike Bolsinger, then a grounder by the next batter straight back to the pitcher. As Bolsinger tried to make the play at second for the double play, shades of the Washington State series sprung back up as he overthrew second base into the outfield. Raoul Torrez would capitalize on the error and knock a single into left field, giving ASU the 1-0 lead.
With the Arkansas hitters still getting nothing in the third inning, Arizona State would put two more on the board from a single by Marrero through the right side and giving a huge three-run lead to the Sun Devils with a third of the game complete.
In the fourth inning, the Hog bats finally came alive. Brett Eibner got things going as he drew a walk from Arizona State starter, Seth Blair, followed by a single by Andy Wilkins. Bigham would score Eibner on a double off the right-center field wall and move Wilkins to third. After catcher James McCann was hit by a pitch, Matt Vinson would draw the walk, bringing in another run and Tim Carver finished the scoring rally by reaching on a fielders choice, scoring Bigham. Heading into the bottom of the fourth, everything was tied up at three.
However, ASU would respond right back, scoring for the third straight inning after a high fly ball to shallow right field. Charging on the play was right fielder, Matt Vinson, but so was the second baseman, Bigham. Whether it was communication issues or not, the ball was allowed to drop, giving Arizona State a 4-3 lead into the 5th.
The Razorbacks finally took over the lead in that 5th inning, getting solid hits from the middle part of their order. Starting with Zack Cox, who hit a double to left-center field, Eibner scored Cox with a double of his own down the left line. Bigham finished off the inning with his third hit of the ball game, a single up the middle, good enough to score Eibner. 5-4 Hogs after four and a half.
Hog relief pitcher, Jeremy Heatley held Arizona State scoreless in the fifth, which gave way to a solo home run by Vinson off Sun Devil reliever, Brady Rodgers. Vinson scorched the first pitch he saw from Rodgers to deep right field making the score 6-4 Razorbacks.
Unfortunately, the Sun Devils would not be outdone as they responded with their own home run in the bottom of the sixth from Kyle Calhoun, making it a one-run ballgame, 6-5 Hogs after six.
ASU would threaten once again in the seventh with two runners on and two outs. Head Coach Dave Van Horn decided to make a pitching change and bring in the junior transfer, Jordan Pratt. The first batter he faced, Drew MacPhee, would rope a hard liner to left field, but Collin Kuhn would come up throwing and gunned a strike to the plate to get what would have been the tying run, preserving the lead for Arkansas.
After holding things steady in the eighth, the Razorbacks would have two outs and be one strike away from closing out the game in the ninth, but Arizona State, who had a runner on third, would get some luck after MacPhee would beat out a soft grounder to third base, scoring the runner and sending the game to extras.
The Razorbacks will not have much time to dwell on this loss before they have to do it all over again for game two against this same Arizona State team. The Hogs will be facing elimination and need to win two straight ballgames to advance back to the College World Series. First pitch for Sunday’s game is set for 9 p.m.
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