Razorbacks win regular-season finale
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – TJ Forrest pitched six shutout innings and Monk Kreder drove in a career-high four RBI as the No. 14 University of Arkansas baseball team defeated Vanderbilt, 7-5, Saturday afternoon in the regular-season finale at Hawkins Field. Andy Wilkins reached base five times with a pair of singles and three walks and Bo Bigham hit a home run to add to the Hogs’ offensive output. With the win, Arkansas (40-16, 18-12 SEC) secures the No. 4 seed for next week’s SEC Tournament.
"We played hard all weekend," head coach Dave Van Horn said. "It’s like I told them, we knew seven runs would be a good lead but it may not be enough because (Vanderbilt) has a very good bullpen and they can hit without striking out much. We knew they’d make a run at us and they did. We helped them with the walks but we held on."
After going in order in the first inning, the Hogs strung together four consecutive hits-all singles-in the top of the second to take a 2-0 lead. Wilkins got things started with a base hit through the right side of the infield and after a passed ball, he stood at second base. Travis Sample drove in game’s first run with a single up the middle. Designated hitter Tom Hauskey followed with a flare single just out of the reach of the Commodores’ shortstop and Arkansas had runners on first and second. Kreder capped the scoring with an RBI single.
Making his third start of the season, and second during conference play, Forrest eased through the first inning but gave up a pair of one-out singles in the home half of the second to run into his first bit of trouble. The right-handed senior induced a groundball off the bat of Joe Loftus and the Hogs turned a double play, their sixth of the series, to get out of the inning unscathed.
Bigham led off the top of the third with a solo shot to right field off Vanderbilt starter Jack Armstrong. The opposite-field dinger was Bigham’s third home run of the season. With one down, Wilkins and Sample drew back-to-back walks and Vanderbilt (40-15, 16-12 SEC) went to Chase Reid out of the bullpen. Hauskey moved the runners up to second and third with a groundout and Kreder came through again with a two-run single to left field to push the Razorbacks’ lead to five.
Arkansas took advantage of a throwing error by Aaron Westlake to build on its lead with two unearned runs in the fifth. With runners on the move from first and second on a bunt by Sample, Westlake’s throw to second ended up in center field allowing Brett Eibner to score and Wilkins to move get around to third. Kreder lifted a sacrifice fly to center field to plate Wilkins and the Hogs led, 7-0.
Forrest was strong against the Commodores in Saturday’s ballgame. He held Vanderbilt scoreless and surrendered just two hits in a season-high six innings. Forrest retired 10 of 11 hitters at one point and didn’t allow a runner past second during his outing. His previous long appearance was 4.1-inning relief effort at Ole Miss on May 8.
Vanderbilt broke through for three runs in the bottom of the seventh off Geoffrey Davenport and Jordan Pratt. Westlake led off the inning with a home run to center field, his 11th long ball of the season. With one down, the Commodores loaded the bases after a pair of singles and a walk. Pratt entered the game and issued back-to-back walk to give the home team two more runs. Arkansas used its second double play of the game to get out of the jam.
The Commodores added a run in the eighth but Pratt struck out Bryan Johns with the bases loaded to limit the damage. With two down and runners on first and second, Loftus sent a chopper up the middle to plate Westlake, Vandy’s fourth run of the ballgame. After a walk to Connor Harrell, the bases were loaded for a second consecutive inning but Pratt got Johns to wave at strike three for the third out.
Anthony Gomez brought his team to within two with a solo shot in the ninth as Vanderbilt made a final push. With one down, Jason Esposito doubled to right field on a ball that Collin Kuhn appeared to lose in the sun. With the tying run at the plate, Pratt responded to strike out Westlake for the second out. Casali lifted a flyball to right that Kuhn put a squeeze on to close out the game.
These teams will see each other again Wednesday in the first round of the SEC Tournament. In the final game of the opening day, Arkansas and Vanderbilt will square off in the 4-5 matchup. The contest will be televised by Comcast/Charter Sports (CSS) and will also be carried by Cox Sports Television (CST) in Northwest Arkansas. All games of the SEC Tournament will be available at ESPN3.com.
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