Big Innings Lead To Opening Day DH Sweep
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Waiting one extra day to start the 2019 season didn’t seem to bother the 12th-ranked Razorback Baseball team on Saturday at Baum-Walker Stadium. Arkansas picked up a pair of wins behind a strong offensive showing, winning 15-7 in game one and 12-3 in game two.
Each starting position player recorded at least one hit in both games of the doubleheader. Sophomore infielder Casey Martin led all Razorback hitters combining for five hits on the day, three coming in game one win. Graduate senior Trevor Ezell and redshirt freshman Jacob Nesbit, who were both making their Razorback debuts, each added four hits combined of their own over the two-game stretch.
Head coach Dave Van Horn opened his 17th season as the Razorback skipper with his 17th-straight Opening Day win and it was the second-largest Opening Day win in the last five seasons. It was also the 25th-straight season-opening win for the Razorbacks dating back to 1995 under former head coach Norm DeBriyn.
On the pitching side, redshirt junior Isaiah Campbell and freshman Connor Noland made their first starts of the year. Campbell was solid through five innings, but gave up three earned runs in his final inning of work. The Kansas-native still struck out five and never issued a walk.
Noland, who was making his Razorback debut, nearly completed five innings after striking out a team-high seven batters, but Eastern Illinois loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth, forcing Van Horn to go to the bullpen. Noland still didn’t give up an earned run and only allowed one walk.
Game 1 | Arkansas 15, Eastern Illinois 7 (Box Score)
Not only did Martin have a great day at the plate in the first game of the day, but so did Ezell. The Bryant, Arkansas native went 3-for-4 at the plate with three RBIs and three runs scored, including hitting Arkansas’ first home run of the year into the right field bullpen.
It was one of four home runs hit in the game as Heston Kjerstad, Jack Kenley and Christian Franklin also went deep. The four home runs is the most in the first game of the season for any Dave Van Horn-led team dating back to 2002.
The big inning came in the fourth as Arkansas chased EIU starter Tyler Jones with an eight-run frame. Franklin’s three-run opposite field home run got the rally going and it was followed by the two-run home run of Kjerstad that was estimated at 392 feet. The home run was Kjerstad’s only hit in the game.
Catcher Casey Opitz had a good day at the plate also, as he got the start behind the dish. The sophomore went 2-for-3 with a career-high three RBIs, as well as two runs scored.
Amidst the 18-hit barrage that Arkansas had in game one, the offense also did not strike out once in 46 batters. It’s the first time since Feb. 28, 2010, a 7-6 victory over Troy, that an Arkansas team did not strike out in a game.
Game 2 | Arkansas 12, Eastern Illinois 3 (Box Score)
Five different players recorded two or more hits in game two, including Martin, Nesbit, Dominic Fletcher, Jordan McFarland, Zack Plunkett.
McFarland, who got the call as the designated hitter, went 2-for-4 with a team-high three RBIs and a stolen base. His two-RBI single in the eighth was part of a six-run frame that ballooned a three-run Arkansas lead to a nine-run Arkansas lead.
In that inning, the Razorbacks not only batted around for the second time in the day, but all six runs were brought in by singles or a fielder’s choice. Plunkett had the lone extra-base hit in the inning, a double, but couldn’t bring anyone around to score at the time.
On the pitching side, Noland looked great, allowing only one hit and one walk in the first three innings. He ran into a little trouble in the fourth, but got the benefit of a double play. In the fifth, it was errors in the defense that allowed the bases to jam up with only one out. Noland did get a strikeout of Alex Stevenson and looked to be willing to finish the inning, but Van Horn decided to go to the bullpen and bring in Ramage, who got the final out and pitched the next two innings scoreless.
Ramage ended up with the victory, his first of the year. Zebulon Vermillion and Marshall Denton finished off the final two innings, allowing only one hit and striking out one in the final eight batters.
Arkansas and Eastern Illinois will finish off its series tomorrow with a 1 p.m. first pitch at Baum-Walker Stadium. The game will be televised online on SEC Network+ via the Watch ESPN app and WatchESPN.com.
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