The Arkansas Razorbacks escaped with a 6-5 victory Saturday when St. John’s pitcher Craig Hansen walked Bubbs Merrill with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to give the Hogs a come-from-behind victory.The Razorbacks added a run when Merrill stole home on the back end of a double steal. Devin Day singled to move Merrill to third, then Day stole second. As Day broke, the catcher threw to second and Merrill broke for home beating the relay throw from second base.
The win kept the Razorbacks’ record unblemished on the year at 5-0, while St. John’s fell to 0-2 with the loss.
Arkansas relief pitcher Zach Butler earned the win to move to 1-0 on the season after pitching the final two innings without allowing a hit.
Hansen dropped to 0-1 after coming in the ninth with the bases loaded and one out and walking Merrill on a 3-1 pitch.
Haas Pratt put the Razorbacks on the scoreboard with a two-run home run to center in the bottom of the second inning. Pratt’s home run was his first of the season and it came with Clay Goodwin aboard who doubled to left with two outs.
The Red Storm cut into the lead in the third inning. Mike Rozema walked and scored on Eddie Schultz’s double to left to make it a 3-1 game. Greg Thomson then singled to right to plate Schultz and make it a 3-2 game.
St. John’s tied the game in the fourth. Joe Burke doubled and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt. Drew Jackson brought him home with a single to shortstop that Day fielded on the slide.
Still in the fourth, the Red Storm took the lead on Rozema’s single to left that scored Jim Martin who also singled.
St. John’s worked out of a bases loaded, no outs jam in the bottom of the fifth. The Red Storm got a pitcher-to-catcher-to-first double play, then got Blake Parker to fly out to center with two on to end the scoring threat.
The Red Storm made it a 5-3 game in the sixth when Rozema plated Jackson with a sacrifice fly to left. Jackson singled and moved to second when Matt Fry booted the ball. Jackson then moved to third on a ground out to set up the scoring play.
Day made it a one run game with a single to right that plated Goodwin who singled to open the bottom of the sixth. Pratt, who also singled, moved to third on the play. The Red Storm got a strikeout and a ground to end the inning with tying run at third.
The Razorbacks tied the game in the bottom of the seventh. With the bases loaded and one out Pratt hit a ground ball that bounced off the shortstop and was picked up by the second baseman who tagged Goodwin out. Casey Rowlett scored on the play to even the score at 5-5.
In the ninth the Red Storm threatened, but the Razorbacks made up for a throwing error with strong defense to keep the score tied. Blake Hershelman was hit by a pitch to open the ninth and was replaced by pinch runner Tim Blackmon.
A bunt by Joe Burke was fielded by Toops who threw high to second base allowing Blackmon to reach safely. A sacrifice bunt by DeRosa moved Blackmon to third and Burke to second with only one out.
Jackson then grounded to Pratt at first who alertly threw home. Toops fielded the throw that was wide and spun around on his side to nail Blackmon for the second out. Jim Martin then grounded out to end the inning.
In the bottom of the ninth, Fry walked and was replaced by pinch runner Stephen Robison who advanced to second on a sac bunt by Toops. Goodwin was then intentionally walked and Pratt was hit by a pitch to loaded the bases for Merrill.
After taking a first pitch strike, Merrill took four straight balls to plate the winning run.
The teams conclude their series Sunday with a 1:05 p.m. game. Clint Brannon is scheduled to take the mound for the Razorbacks.