FAYETTEVILLE – The No. 14 University of Arkansas baseball team took advantage of three bases-loaded situations in the seventh inning to complete its comeback and down Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 14-6, Friday afternoon at Baum Stadium. James McCann capped the eight-run seventh with his first career grand slam. The Razorbacks trailed by three runs entering the bottom of the sixth but scored 11 runs over the next two innings to take control of the game.
McCann was 2-for-4 at the plate to go along with two runs scored and a walk. Zack Cox tied his season high with three hits, while Bo Bigham collected a pair of hits. Each had three RBI and two runs scored. Geoffrey Davenport came in out of the bullpen to collect his second win of the season.
"Offensively we got ourselves into a lot of positive counts," head coach Dave Van Horn said. "It didn’t always work out but we finally put together a big inning. (Wisconsin-Milwaukee) jumped out and they hit a home run after a couple of singles and all of a sudden we find ourselves down three but we didn’t panic. We scored a few runs and tied it up. Then, putting that big eight-run inning together was huge for us. The big hit was really the two-strike hit by Cox up the middle to double our lead to four. Then we hit a grand-slam home run and were in control."
An RBI double by UWM’s Ben Long put the visitors ahead, 1-0, in the top of the first. Arkansas starter Mike Bolsinger walked the lead-off man but retired the next two hitters before Long’s extra-base hit plated Cole Kraft to give the Panther’s the early advantage.
With one down in the bottom of the second, Tim Carver shot out of the batter’s box to stretch a base hit to center into a double. Bigham followed with a double off the wall in left field to bring Carver home and tie the score.
Cox extended his season-opening hit streak to 13 games with a single to lead off the home half of the third. After a base hit by Andy Wilkins, the Hogs had runners on first and third with no outs. Cox scored on a wild pitch by UWM starter Kyle Schmidt. Despite leaving a pair of runners on base in the inning, the Razorbacks came away with a 2-1 lead.
The Panthers grabbed the lead back with a three-run fifth inning. Chad Pierce opened the inning with a walk and eventually came around to score on a short-hop throw to first that Wilkins couldn’t dig out of the dirt. Kraft had the big hit of the inning with a two-run shot to right center that gave UWM the 4-2 lead.
Arkansas got one of those runs back in the bottom half of the same inning. Wilkins reached on a fielder’s choice; Cox was out on the play as the lead runner. With two down, Brett Eibner doubled into the corner in left field to drive in the Hogs’ third run of the game.
Two more runs in the top of the sixth pushed the UWM advantage to three, 6-3. Pierce and Jonathan Capasso each had an RBI single in the inning for the Panthers.
Davenport relieved Bolsinger in the sixth inning. In 1.2 innings of work, the sophomore lefty gave up two hits but kept the Panthers off the scoreboard, allowing for the Arkansas comeback. Davenport struck out two hitters and didn’t surrender a walk. Christian Kowalchuk, making his third appearance of the season, closed out the game with two scoreless innings on the mound. Three of the six outs he recorded came via strikeout.
"If you go to the other side of the ball, the defensive side, it’s tough playing in this (weather)," Van Horn said. "It’s slick and hard to throw and pitch the ball. Mike didn’t throw very well today at all, but I thought Davenport came in and did a tremendous job. He did a good job, got us back in the game and got himself a win."
The Hogs scored three runs of their own in the bottom of the sixth to knot the score at 6-all. After Bigham was hit by a pitch, Matt Vinson drove in the first run of the frame with a triple to right center. It was the second triple in as many games for the Alma, Ark., native. The Panthers pulled their starter and went to Cuyler Franzke for relief. His first pitch, however, was driven into right field by Collin Kuhn for a double and Vinson came around to score. Cox followed with an RBI groundout, allowing Kuhn to score and tie the game. Kuhn advanced to third earlier on a wild pitch.
Bigham put the Razorbacks ahead, 8-6, with a bases-loaded, two-run single in the seventh. McCann and Eibner led off the inning with a single and walk, respectively. Pinch hitter Tom Hauskey advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt and Carver was intentionally walked to load the bases ahead of Bigham.
After Bigham’s game-winning hit, Vinson drew another walk to load the bases for a second time in the inning. With two outs, Cox delivered with a base hit up the middle to bring home two more runs. Wilkins followed by working the fifth walk of the inning out of Franzke and the bases were full of Razorbacks for McCann. The sophomore catcher belted a 0-1 pitch over the fence in left field to give Arkansas its final run total.
Game two of the weekend series between the Hogs (10-3) and Wisconsin-Milwaukee (4-6) is scheduled for a 2:05 p.m. first pitch Saturday at Baum Stadium. The Hogs will have Drew Smyly on the mound to start the game, opposing Pierce who will switch from designated hitter to pitcher for the Panthers.