Smith Strikes Out 14, Diggs Powers 10-Run Outburst as #2 Arkansas Hammers #8 Kentucky in Opener

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Hagen Smith tallied 14 strikeouts, and Kendall Diggs drove in a team-leading four RBI as No. 2 Arkansas (40-7, 17-5 SEC) blasted No. 8 Kentucky (33-10, 16-6 SEC), 10-3, Friday night at Kentucky Proud Park.

With the series-opening win, the Razorbacks, now 17-5 through 22 games of league play, gained the outright SEC lead. Western Division leader Arkansas, which clinched its seventh consecutive 40-win season (excluding the shortened 2020 campaign), and Eastern Division leader Kentucky entered Friday night’s game tied atop the conference standings.

The Hogs will go for their seventh consecutive series win against the Wildcats in tomorrow’s rematch, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. CT Saturday, May 4, on SEC Network+. Arkansas, which has not lost a weekend series in Lexington since the 2011 season, is also seeking its fourth consecutive road series win against Kentucky.

Smith, who retired the first eight Wildcat batters he faced Friday night, was once again magnificent on the mound. The junior left-hander allowed just one run on three hits and two walks while striking out 14, as he recorded his team-leading 10th quality start and his ninth double-digit strikeout game, a single-season program record, of the year.

The Razorback ace, who earned the win to improve to a perfect 9-0, now boasts a jaw-dropping 1.36 ERA in 66.0 innings of work over 12 starts this season. Smith has allowed only 11 runs (10 earned) all year while striking out 125 opposing batters, which is tied for sixth most in a single season by an Arkansas pitcher.

After Kentucky opened the scoring in the bottom of the third, Arkansas would tie the ballgame in the fifth before posting a three-spot in the sixth and then breaking out for six runs in the seventh. Peyton Stovall, who finished 2-for-5 with a two-bagger and two RBI, ripped a game-tying ground-rule double to left in the fifth, evening the score at 1-1.

Diggs’ one-out double in the sixth brought home two runs as Arkansas jumped out to a 3-1 advantage, its first lead of the game. Pinch-hitter Ross Lovich delivered a two-out RBI double later in the frame to extend the Hogs’ lead to three.

Ahead 4-1, the Razorbacks never looked back. Arkansas went on to score all six of its runs in the seventh with two outs and open a commanding 10-1 lead, the team’s most runs in an SEC game this season. Diggs delivered another massive blow in the six-run inning, scoring a pair on his single to center to start the game-changing rally.

Diggs, who was one of three Razorbacks along with Stovall and Hudson White to log a multi-hit game, finished the night 2-for-4 with a double and four RBI. White, meanwhile, went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI in the series-opening win.

In relief of Smith, right-handers Will McEntire (2.0 IP, 3 SO) and Dylan Carter (1.0 IP, 2 ER, 1 SO) worked the final three innings. McEntire struck out three in two scoreless frames to lower his season ERA to 3.33 in 46.0 innings over 22 games.

Junior right-hander Brady Tygart will start on the mound for the Razorbacks tomorrow at Kentucky Proud Park. With a series win or sweep this weekend, Arkansas can clinch its best 24-game SEC start in program history. The Hogs’ best 24-game SEC start in school history is 17-7, which they have achieved four times – 1999, 2019, 2021 and 2023.

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