ATHENS, Ga. – For the second straight game the No. 5 Arkansas baseball team got tremendous starting pitching only to lose in the bottom of the ninth on a base hit by Matt Cerione of the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs as the Razorbacks fell, 4-3, at Foley Field in Athens, Ga., on Saturday afternoon.
Sophomore Andy Wilkins was a force at the plate and junior T.J. Forrest had his best outing as a Razorback to lead the Razorbacks (25-11, 10-6 SEC). Georgia (31-7, 13-4 SEC) solidifies its lead atop the Southeastern Conference standings with the series victory.
“We’re frustrated that we couldn’t put them away or get the big out” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “We should have put together a big inning and needed to do some damage.”
For the second straight outing Arkansas took the early lead with a run in the top of the third. James McCann stroked a double to right field and came around to score on a Chase Leavitt single.
The Hogs would make it a 2-0 game in the fourth off Georgia starter Alex McRee when Tom Hauskey led off with a single to right which was followed by a walk to Wilkins. Arkansas’ run would score moments later when a sacrifice bunt by Collin Kuhn was thrown away by McRee allowing Hauskey to score from second and putting runners at second and third with no outs. A strike out ensued and Arkansas’ next batter, McCann, hit a high foul ball that appeared to be headed out of play. Georgia first baseman Rich Poythress ran to the chain link fence and made a highlight-reel leaping grab over the fence for the second out. Wilkins tagged at third and sprinted to the plate hoping to catch Georgia unaware but Poythress threw the ball to the plate resulting in a bang-bang play. Wilkins appeared to slide under the tag of the Georgia catcher who had to catch the ball at his shoulder and come down to make the play but the umpire called Wilkins out prompting Van Horn to come charging from the dugout to argue the call. Van Horn’s argument that the tag was at Wilkins shoulders and that his foot touched home plate first was ignored and the play stood as called making it a 2-0 game at the end of the fourth instead of 3-0 with Leavitt at the plate.
The controversial play at the plate came back to bite the Razorbacks two innings later when Forrest made his first bad pitch of the afternoon allowing Poythress to stroke a two-run home run over the left-field wall. The long ball by Poyhtress tied the game at two. Georgia would take their first lead of the game an inning later when Cerione stroked a double to left-center field to score a runner from third base.
Arkansas showed life in the eighth inning when Wilkins joined the home run parade with a deep shot over the center-field wall. The solo blast by Wilkins was his 11th of the season and tied the contest at three. Arkansas would then apply pressure on Georgia closer Dean Weaver in the ninth by placing runners at the corners but Weaver would then get a flare to second base to get out of the jam.
The Georgia ninth started with a pop out to the shortstop but for the second straight day a walk came back to bite the Hogs as a Georgia pinch hitter was given a free pass opening the door for Cerione. A 2-2 pitch by Mike Bolsinger was stroked down the right-field line and a great Arkansas relay from Leavitt to Ben Tschepikow gave the Razorbacks a chance to get the runner at home plate, but the ball squirted out of the glove of Ryan Cisterna who attempted to block the plate and make the play as the runner collided with him ending the contest.
For Arkansas Forrest was fantastic on the day giving the Hogs their second quality start in two days. The Bossier Parrish, La., native tossed six innings and allowed just two runs on five hits while striking out three and not walking anyone. Forrest was efficient in his work as he took advantage of Georgia’s aggressiveness at the plate which allowed him to throw just 40 pitches through five innings.
Wilkins’ afternoon was one of note as he played sparkling defense, was hit by a pitch, stole a base, walked and stroked the long home run to tie the game at three. He was joined by Leavitt who had two hits, Hauskey, Carver and McCann on the hit parade.
The Razorbacks and Bulldogs conclude their series on Sunday afternoon at Foley Field in Athens, Ga., with a 1 p.m. central first pitch. Sunday’s game is slated to air on Cox Sports in Northwest Arkansas. For more information regarding Razorback baseball or University of Arkansas athletics please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.