RUSTON, La. – The 2007 season opener for the Arkansas Razorbacks’ baseball team was not a pretty one, but it was a win as the No. 7 Hogs held on for a 4-2 win over Louisiana Tech at J.C. Love Field on Friday night.
It was a bitter cold night as temperatures hovered in the mid-30s all evening. The win was Arkansas’ 13th straight victory on opening night dating back to the 1994 season.
Hogs’ ace Nick Schmidt came into the night on a pitch count of 65 and struggled through his first two innings before settling in and fanning two in the third inning and reaching his pitch count. Schmidt allowed just one hit over his three innings of work, but tied his career high with five walks while striking out three.
Bulldogs’ ace Luke Burnett (0-1) had an even more difficult time finding the strike zone walking eight in 3.2 innings of work. He allowed two base hits to Sean Jones and three earned runs while fanning six.
The win went to Schmidt (1-0) who won his 18th game as a Hog, but the story of the night for both teams was the relief pitching. The Hogs’ bullpen threw six-scoreless innings, allowing just four hits, while Tech’s Andrew Alsup pitched 5.1 innings out of the pen.
Senior Brian McLelland relived Schmidt in the top of the fourth inning and sailed through three innings, allowing just two hits and throwing 38 pitches. Senior Chris Rhoads then came on to throw 1.2 innings of one-hit ball before being relieved by Jess Todd with two outs in the eighth inning.
Todd then showed why he was added to the Roger Clemens Award watch list before he had even thrown a pitch of division-I baseball. The right-hander from Navarro College earned the first save of his Razorback career, striking out three in 1.2 innings of work.
Louisiana Tech jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the second inning as Schmidt struggled to find the plate. He walked two hitters, gave up a hit and uncorked a wild pitch with runs scoring on the wild pitch and a walk.
The Razorbacks responded with three runs in the top half of the fourth inning with Burnett’s wildness keying the rally. The Tech right-hander walked three in the inning and hit a batter. The only hit was a double off the bat of junior-college transfer Sean Jones.
The Hogs added an insurance run in the top of the ninth inning as Jake Dugger crushed a 2-2 pitch over the right-field wall. Jones led the UA offense with two hits, while Dugger chipped in with his home run and Ben Tschepikow and Brian Walker singled. Tech also managed just five hits off the Arkansas pitching staff.
The Razorbacks and Bulldogs return to the diamond at 3:05 p.m. Saturday for the second game of the three-game series from J.C. Love Field in Ruston, La. The game will be televised on Cox Sports, channel 119 on Cox Cables systems in Northwest Arkansas.
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