FAYETTEVILLE – Senior Andrew Darr made a game-altering catch in the top of the 10th and crushed a two-run home run in the bottom of the inning to lead Arkansas to a 7-5 win in game two and a doubleheader sweep of Washington State at Baum Stadium on Friday. The Razorbacks won the first game of the opening day twin bill 4-2.
In the top of the inning, Derek Jones hit a 1-2 pitch from freshman Zack Cox to the wall in left field. Darr went back on the hit, stood at the wall and made a leaping grab to prevent a home run to the delight of the 6,523 Razorback fans still in attendance. In the bottom of the inning Darr stepped up to the plate with one-man on and crushed a 0-1 pitch over the seats in left field for the game-winning home run.
“Andrew [Darr] made a great catch,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “I don’t know if it would have gotten out of the park, but it was right at the top of that wall. He did a good job of getting back there and giving himself a chance. Then, coming back and hitting a walk-off homerun, that’s exciting. I think that’s the first one he’s ever hit as a Razorback. He did what you are supposed to do with a hanging curveball and we all knew it was out as soon as it hit the bat.”
Of course with every game, it’s the little things that lead to a victory and the Razorbacks had plenty of those throughout the day. In game two freshman James McCann came through in the clutch in the sixth inning when he took a 3-2 pitch through the hole on the right side to plate two runners and tie the game at five after the Cougars took a three-run lead in the top of the inning. McCann also came through in game one when he completed a strike-them-out-throw-them-out double play in the ninth inning to erase a base runner that had reached on an error.
On the day, the Razorbacks hit .338 over the two games as they pounded out 24 hits off a very good Washington State pitching staff. McCann went 2-3 at the plate while sophomore Andy Wilkins knocked out three hits including a home run in game two. Senior Ben Tschepikow led all Razorbacks with four hits and belted a game-winning home run in game one of the two-game set. Overall, nine Razorbacks had at least two hits on the day with Wilkins, Tschepikow and Chase Leavitt accountable for at least three.
“They have a good pitching staff,” Van Horn said. “I thought their coaches did a great job of mixing and matching and bringing in their lefties to face our lefties. I told our left-handed hitters that I’m going to leave you in there and see what you can do. We had a couple guys struggle in the first game and we have to get ready for it.”
As good as Arkansas’ hitting was throughout the two games, the Razorback pitching staff was equally up to the challenge. First-game starter Dallas Keuchel was dominating as he threw 83 pitches over six innings. Keuchel allowed four hits during that time and made just one bad pitch, a two-run home run. Following Keuchel on the mound was senior Justin Wells who threw three innings and allowed just one hit, a batter he then erased with a pick off at first, to earn his first save of the season.
Arkansas’ game-two pitching also got the job done as four pitchers combined to allow seven hits and five runs, but the back end of the bullpen, Stephen Richards and Cox combined for four innings of no run, one hit baseball with six strikeouts and no walks.
“I thought the bullpen did a great job. Richards came in and did well,” Van Horn said. “He got a little tired at the end. Then, Cox came in and did a great job. He gave up one long fly-ball out and they showed us what they could do a little bit.”
The opening day actual attendance of 6,523 was a Razorback record for an opening day, breaking the old mark set in 2006. Coincidentally, Arkansas swept a doubleheader with Louisiana Tech on that day.
The Razorbacks and Cougars are scheduled to play game three of the series on Sunday afternoon beginning at 11:05 a.m. at Baum Stadium. For more information regarding Razorback baseball or University of Arkansas athletics please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.