Hogs hold off Missouri State 5-4
FAYETTEVILLE – Brett Eibner totaled four RBI and Jordan Pratt came out of the bullpen to pick up the win as the No. 7 University of Arkansas baseball team beat Missouri State, 5-4, Wednesday night at Baum Stadium. Eibner hit his 14th home run of the season to power the Razorback offense, while Pratt struck out four in 2.1 innings of relief work against the Bears.
"(Pratt) did a great job," head coach Dave Van Horn said. "He came in and settled the game down. If it weren’t for the weekend and having to save some pitchers, we would have left Jordan in there but we have to get him ready for the weekend."
Arkansas (34-8) posted the first run of Wednesday’s ballgame with a score in the first inning. Bo Bigham got things started with a one-out single. Zack Cox followed with a base hit to center which allowed Bigham to move around to third. Eibner drove in the run with a sacrifice fly to shallow center field.
Geoffrey Davenport started the game for the Razorbacks and worked two scoreless innings. He gave up a first-inning hit but got out of the frame without allowing a run. Davenport struck out the side in the second. He did not figure into the decision. TJ Forrest came on in relief to start the third.
Missouri State (17-22) tied the game with a run of its own in the top of the third. Kevin Medrano doubled to left center past a diving Eibner to plate Travis McComack for the Bears’ first run. The extra-base knock extended Medrano’s hitting streak to 21 games.
The Razorbacks pushed a run across in their half of the third to take back the lead. After a pair of walks and a double steal, Cox and Bigham were on second and third, respectively. For the second time in as many at-bats, Eibner lifted a sacrifice fly to center to bring Bigham home.
The lead didn’t last, however, as Missouri State tagged Forrest and Jason Fuqua for three runs in the top of the fourth. Tyler Paxson led off the inning with a walk and Tyler Ryun gave the Bears two runners with a one-out single up the middle. Fuqua entered the game to face Christian Overstreet and the Missouri State outfielder greeted him with a three-run shot to right center to give the visitors a 4-2 advantage.
With the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the fourth, Matt Reynolds reached on a fielder’s choice and drove in Arkansas’ third run. The Hogs loaded the bases again after Collin Kuhn got hit by a pitch off the hand of Missouri State reliever Blake Barber. The inning, and scoring threat, came to an end when Bigham grounded into a double play for the final two outs.
Kuhn tied the school record for being hit by a pitch in a single season when he was plunked by Barber. It marked the 22nd time this season the Beaver Dam, Wis., native has been hit by a pitch, trying the previous record set in 1999 by Joe Jester.
Pratt came out of the Razorback bullpen in the top of the fifth with Missouri State runners on first and third. He got the Hogs out of the jam by striking out Curt Courtwright on three pitches. During his outing, Pratt kept the Bears off the bases and the scoreboard. He retired the side in order in the sixth and seventh on his way to earning his second win of the season.
Eibner’s two-run blast came in the bottom of the fifth and put Arkansas on top for good. Cox led off the inning with a double to left field, his second hit of the night and 26th multi-hit effort of the season. Eibner stepped to the plate and belted a 1-1 offering from Barber over the fence in left center. With the long ball, he moved up into a tie for eighth (with Jake Dugger, 2004-07) on Arkansas’ all-time home runs list with 34 career dingers.
The Bears put together another threat in their half of the eighth. Christian Kowalchuk started the inning in relief of Pratt but gave up a leadoff double to Keenen Maddox and then walked Paxson. James McCann provided a spark by throwing down to second and picking off Maddox for the first out. The defensive play proved significant as Courtwright singled through the left side which could have been the potential game-tying hit.
Van Horn turned to his bullpen again to call on Jeremy Heatley with one down and runners on first and second. The right-handed senior responded in the tight spot by inducing a comebacker which he fielded for the second out and striking out Overstreet to end the inning. Heatley stayed on to record the final three outs of the game and earn his second save of the year.
The Razorbacks resume Southeastern Conference play Friday for the beginning of a three-game series against Auburn at Baum Stadium. The Hogs enter the weekend first place in the SEC Western Division with their 13-5 league mark, two games ahead of LSU and Ole Miss. Games one and three of the Auburn series will be televised by Cox Sports Television (Ch. 119 in Northwest Arkansas).