Hogs Walk-Off To Second-Straight SEC Sweep
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Sophomore catcher Casey Opitz delivered a 2-0 fastball down the left field line in the bottom of the 10th inning Sunday afternoon to help the sixth-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks defeat the 18th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers, 4-3, in walk-off fashion for their second-straight SEC series sweep and seventh conference win in a row.
Opitz, who came into the at-bat 0-for-4 and with just one hit in the series, came up in the 10th with two outs and runners on second and two outs and sent the 9,419 fans in Baum-Walker Stadium home happy as he was able to score Jack Kenley with his hit. It was Opitz second walk-off hit this year as he also had the walk-off single in the series finale against Missouri (March 17), which also finished off a sweep.
Arkansas (34-11, 15-6 SEC) actually struggled at the plate early on against Tennessee (31-14, 9-12 SEC) starting pitcher Zach Linginfelter, managing just two runs in 4.1 innings, one coming off a solo home run by Kenley in the second. Linginfelter finished with nine strikeouts, but was relieved in the fifth inning after loading the bases with one out. Redmond Walsh came into the game in a tight spot and hit Heston Kjerstad on his first pitch to bring Arkansas’ second run home.
After leaving runners in scoring position in the fifth, seventh and eighth innings and with Tennessee taking a 3-2 lead, the Hogs finally got the big swing it needed to tie the game and send it to extras in the bottom of the ninth. Christian Franklin, who was coming off a four-hit game, tailed a 2-1 pitch the opposite way and wrapped it around the foul pole for his fifth home run of the year, tying the game at 3-3.
Franklin was 2-for-3 in the game and finished the series 7-for-11 (.636) with three extra-base hits and two RBIs. He joined Kenley as the only Razorbacks with a multi-hit performance on Sunday. Following his homer in the second, Kenley had a double in the fourth and a single in the 10th that helped extend the game-winning rally. It’s his second game with three or more hits this year.
Noland Sharp For Second-Straight Week
Freshman right-hander Connor Noland looked sharp for the second-straight week, going seven strong with just one unearned run allowed on two hits and a career-high 10 strikeouts. Noland had a no-hitter going until the sixth inning when Jake Rucker hit a lead-off single. That hit eventually led to the unearned run, snapping a scoreless streak of 15.1 innings for Noland.
Hogs Making a Habit Of The Walk-Off
Sunday’s walk-off win was the third for the Razorbacks this year and fifth game won in the final inning. Casey Opitz now has two of Arkansas’ walk-off hits this year, while Heston Kjerstad had his own in the opening weekend to help the Hogs sweep Eastern Illinois. On the road, Arkansas won game two of its series with Auburn, scoring three runs in the top of the 15th inning before shutting it out in the bottom half. The next week, Arkansas staved off the sweep at Vanderbilt, scoring five runs in the top of the ninth, winning 14-12, which was the first win of the now seven-game conference winning streak. The seven-game streak is the longest for the Razorbacks since winning nine conference games in a row in 2010.
“I thought Connor Noland was lights out. The guy had everything working. I think he just got a little bit tired, but man, he was spotting up his fastball in, he could throw it away. He started mixing in that slider and some changeups. Then he had the regular curveball. He was good and he gave us a chance on a Sunday when we didn’t have a lot of experienced arms that were ready to go.” – Head coach Dave Van Horn on Connor Noland’s performance
“I feel great about it, because you’ve got to take the wins when you can get them. You never know when it’s going to flip on you. You have injuries, you have guys go into little slumps. Teams hit balls that are flares. The game isn’t always fair. You can make pitches and you don’t get a call. You can hit the ball on the nose and it goes right at somebody. So, whenever you need a chance to win a game, you need to win it. Fortunately, we came back and won today.” – Head coach Dave Van Horn on the seven-game conference winning streak
“This team is pretty much fearless. They just play and they think they can win. They don’t really care how far they’re down. If they’ve got some at-bats left, they feel like they can come back.” – Head coach Dave Van Horn on his team’s attitude late in games
“I pretty much had the mindset I had for every at-bat. I’m a good hitter. You’ve got to believe that or nothing is going to happen for you. I just came up there and took that at-bat for what it was. I took what he gave me and produced. It was a fastball down the middle.” – Casey Opitz on his mindset in the final at-bat even though he was hitless
“My blood was rushing really fast. I didn’t have any control over what I was saying. I went into the dugout screaming ‘Let’s go!, to my teammates.” – Christian Franklin on the feeling of hitting the game-tying homer in the bottom of the ninth
“It was just one of those things where you go in, and you’re like, ‘I got to get this done for my guys.’ I did my best to try and throw strikes and get outs.” – Elijah Trest on coming out of the bullpen and throwing a perfect 10th inning
Arkansas will play its final non-conference game of the year on Tuesday when it travels down to North Little Rock, Arkansas to play Grambling State in Dickey-Stephens Park. Game time is slated for 6:30 p.m., but will not be televised in any capacity.
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