FAYETTEVILLE - With a runner on second and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, pinch hitter Tom Hauskey singled to center field to plate the game-winning run in Arkansas' 4-3 win over Alabama Saturday afternoon at Baum Stadium. The Razorbacks trailed, 3-0, entering their half of the seventh and for the second consecutive day, rallied in the late innings for the victory.
In just his fifth plate appearance of the season, Hauskey secured the Hogs' fourth consecutive one-run victory with his RBI single. With the score tied, 3-3, Collin Kuhn led off the ninth with a double down the line in left field. After Zack Cox was intentionally walked and Andy Wilkins flew out, head coach Dave Van Horn went to his bench and called on Hauskey in the clutch situation.
"I had confidence in him," Van Horn said. "I feel like the first pitch was thrown right by him. (On the second pitch), Thomas geared up a little bit, squared that one up a little bit better and got a base hit. It ended up being a good choice and I'm proud of Thomas. He competes and wants to be in there."
Winners of four in a row, the Razorbacks improve to 17-5 on the season with a 3-2 mark in Southeastern Conference play. Alabama dropped its fourth game to fall to 16-5 overall and 2-3 in league play.
With four innings of scoreless baseball in the books, the Crimson Tide broke through with a run in the top of the fifth. Andrew Miller hit a ball into the gap past a diving Tim Carver and pulled into third with a one-out triple. Taylor Dugas knocked in the game's first run with a double to right field.
Alabama scored two more runs in its half of the sixth to push the lead to 3-0. Jon Kelton knocked an RBI single into center field to plate Clay Jones and Jake Smith. Through the first five innings of Saturday's contest, Alabama starter Jimmy Nelson held the Hogs without a hit. Kuhn had Arkansas' first hit with an infield single to lead off the sixth.
Both teams left nine runners on base, but Arkansas starter Brett Eibner worked in and out of trouble throughout his seven-inning effort. He gave up 11 hits but kept the damage to three runs, two of which were earned. In the seventh, the Crimson Tide loaded the bases with one out, but Eibner got out of the jam by retiring the next two hitters on a pair of flyouts.
Jordan Pratt (1-0) came out of the bullpen and worked the final two innings of the game to earn his first win at Arkansas.
The Razorbacks finally strung together a rally against Nelson in the seventh. Three of the first four hitters of the inning had base hits, including an RBI single by Kuhn which drove in Arkansas' first run. Tim Carver followed with an RBI groundout to the shortstop to pull the Hogs to within one. Cox capped the rally with a single up the middle off Alabama to score Kuhn and tie the game at 3-3.
The base knock also extended Cox's hitting streak to 22 games, tying Casey Rowlett (2005) for the longest hitting streak under Van Horn.
"It's great to win the series already," Van Horn said. "We've been behind a lot, been behind a lot this year. It seems like our offense went one or two times through the order to get it going.
"We also got out of a jam with bases loaded, one out in the seventh inning and they didn't score. That was huge, that was the turning point in the game for me."
Arkansas and Alabama will take the field for Sunday's finale at 1:05 p.m. at Baum Stadium. The game will be aired on Cox Sports Television, channel 119 in Northwest Arkansas. Sunday's probable starters are Randall Fant (1-0, 1.50 ERA) for the Hogs and Taylor Wolfe (2-0, 3.00 ERA) for the Crimson Tide.