HOUSTON – Junior Matt Reynolds
had three hits including a go-ahead RBI on a fielder’s choice to lead the University of Arkansas baseball team to a hard-fought, 5-4, victory over Sam Houston State in the first game of the NCAA Houston Regional on Friday afternoon at Reckling Park on the campus of Rice University.
“I thought both pitchers did a great job,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn
said. “DJ (Baxendale) came out and filled up the zone with strikes. Sam Houston State did a good job of battling. I thought that Caleb Smith threw an outstanding ballgame. He gave them a great opportunity to win the game. I’m real proud of our team for coming back. Obviously we had a very bad inning defensively and Sam Houston State hit some balls hard and took advantage. They never stopped believing and they came back and won the ballgame.”
The Arkansas victory improves the Razorbacks to 40-19 on the year and advances Arkansas in the winner’s bracket of the Houston Regional where they will play the winner of the Rice-Prairie View A&M game scheduled for later today. The winner’s bracket game will take place Saturday at 6 p.m. Sam Houston State falls to 38-21 on the year with the loss.
The Razorbacks have now won 40 games in four consecutive years and for the sixth time in 10 seasons under Coach Van Horn. Arkansas has won at least 40 games in a season 18 times in school history.
With the Razorbacks trailing 4-2 going to the bottom of the seventh, Arkansas regained the lead with three runs. Jake Wise
led off the inning with a double down the left field line and Matt Vinson
walked to put runners on first and second. A base hit to left by Joe Serrano
loaded the bases with nobody out. Tim Carver
tied the game with a two-RBI single into left field. A walk to Dominic Ficociello
loaded the bases for the second time in the inning. Reynolds drove in the go-ahead run on a fielder’s choice ground out to shortstop.
“I think we all just banded together,” Carver said about Arkansas’ rally in the seventh inning. “Once we saw Wise hit a double, everyone’s confidence just went up. Hitting is contagious so we fed off of that, did our best to get on and keep things going.”
Sam Houston State was able to get a runner on base in both the eighth and ninth innings, but Brandon Moore
was able to keep the Bearkats off the scoreboard as Arkansas held on for the 5-4 win.
Reynolds had three hits at the plate to lead Arkansas. Reynolds contributed a single in the first, a double in the fourth and a single in the sixth for his 19th multi-hit game of the season, tying him for the team high. The All-SEC first team choice also had a RBI and a run scored in the victory.
Carver drove in a pair of runs, both coming on his game-tying single in the seventh, and finished the game going 1-for-4. Wise went 1-for-3 with a RBI and a run scored. Vinson and Serrano each added a hit.
Eight different hitters had one hit each for the Bearkats. Jake Arrington had a pair of RBI, while Anthony Azer and Luke Plucheck each drove in one run each.
Moore (5-2) earned the win in relief. The sophomore right hander threw three scoreless frames, allowing just two hits.
Caleb Smith (8-6) took the loss for Sam Houston State. Smith gave up five runs, all earned, on seven hits and struck out two in 7.2 innings.
started for the Razorbacks and pitched well, but took a no decision. The junior right hander pitched six innings and allowed four unearned runs with six strikeouts. With his outing today, Baxendale has now made three appearances in the NCAA Tournament and has given up just one earned run in 20.1 innings for an ERA of 0.44.
Sam Houston State had a scoring chance in the top of the second, but was unable to get on the board. With one out, Kevin Miller blooped a single into shallow right field. After a strikeout of Ryan O’Hearn, John Hale was hit by a pitch and Jessie Plumlee walked to load the bases with two outs. Baxendale got Corey Toups to strike out swinging to end the inning.
Arkansas grabbed the lead with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth. Reynolds led off the inning with his second hit of the day, a double to right-center that popped out of the glove of the diving right fielder. A walk to Brian Anderson
put runners on first and second with nobody out. Bo Bigham
laid down a sacrifice bunt. The Sam Houston State pitcher attempted to throw Reynolds out at third, but the throw was late, loading the bases. Derrick Bleeker
and Wise then hit back-to-back sacrifice flies to score a pair of runs and give the Razorbacks a 2-0 lead.
The Bearkats answered back with four runs in the top of the fifth. Hale led off the inning with a single, but was thrown out trying to advance to third after a single by Plumlee. Toups reached on a fielder’s choice, with Plumlee advancing to second on a throwing error by Carver at shortstop. Colt Atwood then reached on a fielder’s choice to second with Toups advancing to second on a fielding error by Bigham. Plucheck brought in the first run of the day for SHSU on a fielder’s choice ground out to third with Atwood being retired at second on the play. A single to center field by Azar tied the game at two and put runners on first and third. Arrington then hit a fly ball to left. Bleeker misjudged the ball, coming in at first and then racing back to the warning track where the ball popped out of his glove and went for a triple that scored two runs and put the Bearkats in front 4-2.