FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas’ bats finally came alive in the bottom of the ninth, but the rally came up short with Missouri State escaping with a 6-4 nonconference win Tuesday in Baum-Walker Stadium with an announced crowd of 9,419 tickets sold.
Dave Van Horn was disappointed in the hitting throughout most of the game and then had some pitching woes in the top of the ninth.
“It was one of those games where offensively we didn’t do much,” Van Horn said. “We struck out, I think, eight times, but we struck them out 15 times. But we got behind [in the count] a couple of times, and it cost us. A 2-0 home run dead center, and then a 3-1 home run off the middle of the scoreboard to one of their best hitters.”
The Razorbacks seemed lifeless at the plate for eight innings and trailed 6-1 heading to the bottom of the ninth. The Bears had a seemingly comfortable 3-1 lead heading to the ninth, but added three runs including a two-run shot over the fence in center field by Drake Baldwin.
“We could kind of feel it coming that when (Heston Tole got behind him there in the top of the ninth, we were in trouble,” Van Horn said. “Like I said, one of their top hitters. We were trying to keep the game at two runs and the next thing you know we’re down four or five.”
As it turned out, the runs were the difference in the game. In the bottom of the ninth, Brady Slavens grounded out to start the inning.
Kendall Diggs, pinch hitting for Chris Lanzilli who had one of Arkansas’ two hits before the inning, walked. Diggs then stole second. Michael Turner grounded out to third for the second out. Robert Moore then got his first hit of the game with a single that plated Diggs to pull within 6-2.
Zack Gregory then pinch hit for Braydon Webb and was in an 0-2 hole when hit by a pitch. Jace Bohrofen then hit a grounder that forced the Missouri State second baseman, Mason Hull, to go to his left. He fielded the ball cleanly but his throw pulled Mason Greer off first base to load the bases.
Jalen Battles then singled to left field to score both Gregory and Moore. When the left fielder, Spencer Nivens, threw the ball into the infield it rolled to the Bears dugout. That allowed Battles to take second and Bohrofen third.
Dylan Leach came up with a chance to tie the game or win it with a home run, but he grounded out to shortstop to end the game. Leach had produced Arkansas’ only run until the ninth with a solo home run over the fence in left field in the third inning. Van Horn was pleased the Hogs did fight until the last out in the ninth.
“They made a couple mistakes and threw the ball around a little bit,” Van Horn said. “But we kept fighting, trying to put the barrel on the ball, make them field it. We did get the tying or winning run to the plate there. We just needed a big hit to tie it up. We hit the ball right at the shortstop. We needed a little bit of a break there. Just needed to find a hole.”
Missouri State built its lead in the first five innings on a two-run home run by Spencer Nivens and then later an RBI on a groundout to Moore at second base.
Will McEntire (1-1) started on the mound for Arkansas and lasted three innings. He allowed two runs, both earned, on one hit. He walked three and struck out four. In all, Arkansas used seven pitchers who combined to allow eight hits, walked eight and struck out 15 Bears.
Tole, Kole Ramage, Zebulon Vermillion, Zack Morris, Nick Griffin and Elijah Trest all worked in relief. Reece Lang (2-2) got the win. He worked five innings, allowed two hits, one run earned, walked one and struck out five. Jake McMahill pitched 0.1 inning to earn his second save of the season.
Arkansas (34-11, 14-7 SEC) will now travel to Auburn for three games with the first one on Friday at 7 p.m. Arkansas leads Auburn, LSU and Texas A&M by two games in the SEC West. Friday’s game will be on the SEC Network+.