FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Ryan Cisterna had two home runs and three RBI, but it was the base running of Ben Tschepikow that gave the Arkansas Razorback baseball team a 5-4 victory over Tennessee on Saturday afternoon at Baum Stadium in 10 innings in front of a season best 8,070 fans.
Walking with two out in the ninth inning, Tschepikow was on first base when Brett Eibner hit an 0-1 pitch sky high just past the infield dirt. What appeared to be a routine play for the Tennessee defense turned ugly as the Volunteer shortstop misplayed the fly and let it fall to the ground. Running on the crack of the bat, Tschepikow never stopped until he slid head first over home plate for the game-winning run where he was mobbed by his teammates who came pouring out of the dugout.
Arkansas (22-16, 7-9 SEC) picks up its second series victory in as many weeks against a ranked opponent and get an opportunity for its first SEC sweep on Sunday afternoon. Tennessee (22-16, 7-9 SEC) drops its third series of the season.
“I never saw the ball drop because I was waving Ben home,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “It was great hustle to even have a chance to score on that play from first. I don’t know if the fielder never saw it off the bat or what, but we are very fortunate to win on a play like that.”
While Arkansas won on a play in dramatic fashion, it was the steady arm of right-handed pitcher Justin Wells and the hot bat of Ryan Cisterna that gave the Razorbacks an opportunity to win. Wells was dealing from the outset as he pitched a career high nine innings and struck out a career high nine batters only to get a no decision. Cisterna had two hits in the game, both home runs, and accounted for four of the five of Arkansas’ runs.
Wells would allow single runs in the second, fifth and sixth innings and enter the ninth with a precarious 4-3 lead. After getting the first batter out on a ground ball, Wells left a 1-0 pitch to Danny Lima in the wrong spot and the number nine hitter for Tennessee sent it flying over the wall in left-center field to tie the game at four. Wells would recover from the shot with another ground ball out and a strike out to end his outing.
“We were going to take him out after seven innings,” Van Horn said. “But we scored three runs and he told me that he could go back out there. He started cramping on the mound, but was a warrior and toughed it out. He gave us everything he had today.”
Cisterna has been a monster at the plate over the last seven games as he has accumulated a .393 average over that time. Saturday’s game was his biggest yet as the Gilbert, Ariz. native crushed two home runs, drove in three and scored two in four at bats. Cisterna’s first home run was a solo shot in the third and paled in comparison to his two-run seventh-inning bomb that bounced off the batters eye in dead center field halfway up the 40-foot tall wall.
“Ryan has been really hot lately,” Van Horn said. “He’s hitting the ball hard and has confidence at the plate. He already has three homers this weekend so hopefully he can keep it up.”
Arkansas’ only other run was scored by Jeff Nutt who opened the seventh inning with a single and moved to second on a throwing error by the Tennessee shortstop. Nutt would move to third on a failed pickoff attempt at second that sent the ball rolling into the outfield and score on a routine ground ball out by Andrew Darr to shortstop.
The Razorbacks look for their first Southeastern Conference series sweep on Sunday afternoon when they host the Volunteers at Baum Stadium beginning at 1:05 p.m. For more information regarding Razorback baseball or University of Arkansas athletics please visit www.hogwired.com.