FAYETTEVILLE – Senior Andrew Darr made it two game-winning hits in a row as he completed a squeeze play in the bottom of the eighth inning to lead the Razorback baseball team to a 4-3 win on Sunday afternoon against Washington St., giving Arkansas a sweep of the Cougars in the opening series of the 2009 season.
The Razorbacks (3-0) took a 3-1 lead into the sixth inning but allowed the Cougars (0-3) to claw their way back and tie the game. With an impending time constraint looming on the contest due to Washington State’s travel plans, sophomore Andy Wilkins stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth and led off with a double to right-center field. Replaced on the base paths by redshirt freshman Collin Kuhn, Kuhn moved to third when pinch hitter Tom Hauskey executed a perfect sacrifice bunt. Darr stepped to the plate next and on a 1-1 pitch with Kuhn breaking for the plate, Darr popped up a bunt that just eluded a diving Jeremy Johnson allowing him to reach base and the go-ahead run to score.
“I was pleased with the way this team battled today and all this weekend,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “Having three close games like this and pulling out a win in each of them is huge for our ballclub in terms of getting used to real game situations and it’s only going to help us down the road. To get any kind of sweep is big for our club, especially since it’s three against the Pac-10.”
For the third game in a row the Razorbacks got great pitching from the opening inning. Redshirt freshman Drew Smyly stepped to the mound for the first time in his career and gave the Hogs four solid innings. The lefty from Little Rock did allow an unearned run, but he kept the Washington State hitters off balance as the Cougars rarely managed to hit the ball hard. Sophomore Sam Murphy and Junior Christian Kowalchuk covered the middle 2 1/3 innings where Washington was able to tie the game, but senior Justin Wells and junior Stephen Richards closed the door as they combined to get eight outs on just 18 pitches.
“In terms of our middle relief, I thought they all did a great job,” Van Horn said. “Wells came in and shut them down, which is what your relievers are supposed to do, but we also need to score more runs for them also.”
The Razorbacks scored their first run in the bottom of the second following a leadoff walk by freshman Zack Cox. A batter and an out later and sophomore Travis Sample hit a ground ball over the third-base bag and into the left-field corner allowing Cox to score from first base and tie the game at one.
In the Arkansas half of the third, back-to-back singles by Chase Leavitt and Ben Tschepikow put runners at the corners and a wild pitch by Washington State would give the Razorbacks their first lead of the game.
Arkansas increased its lead in the fifth inning with a pair of singles and good execution. Leavitt, who finished the series with five hits and three runs scored, singled to center field. Tschepikow, who also had five hits for the Razorbacks, moved Leavitt to second with a nice sacrifice bunt. Brett Eibner then drove Leavitt home with a single to left center and gave the Hogs a 2-1 lead.
Washington State put together a two run inning in the sixth and could have had more as they loaded the bases with just one out. Kowalchuk then entered the game and forced the first batter he faced to fly out to center field which scored one of the two runs and then got the next hitter to pop out to the catcher ending the threat.
Arkansas’ opening series sweep is its second in as many years. Last season the Hogs dispatched Wright St. in their opening series.
The Razorbacks season continues on Tuesday afternoon when Arkansas welcomes Kansas to Baum Stadium for a two-game set. First pitch is slated for 3:05 p.m. For more information regarding Razorback baseball or University of Arkansas athletics please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.