FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – It was another great day for the Razorback freshmen on Thursday as the fifth-ranked Razorback baseball team shutout Dayton, 11-0, to complete the two-game sweep over the Flyers.
The win moves Arkansas to 7-2 and drops Dayton to 1-7. The Hogs have scored at least 10 runs in a game four times this year and are now hitting .312 as a team with 15 home runs.
Combined on Thursday, offensively, the first-year Razorbacks were responsible for six of Arkansas’ 11 hits in the game, including two-hit games from infielder Casey Martin and catcher Casey Opitz. It was the second-straight multi-hit game for Martin and the second in three games for Opitz.
On the mound, the trio of Hunter Milligan, Bryce Bonnin, and Kole Ramage gave up just four hits, two walks, and struck out 13 batters. Bonnin corralled his first collegiate victory after throwing five no-hit innings with one walk and six strikeouts.
Ramage, who pitched the eighth and ninth innings, gave up two late hits in the final frame, but struck out three with no walks. He got the opportunity to use the bat in the eighth when head coach Dave Van Horn made a double switch and placed him fifth in the batting order. The Southlake, Texas native came through with a base hit through the left side, driving in the game’s final run.
Moments That Mattered
Arkansas had built up just a two-run lead going into the bottom of the fourth when senior Jared Gates corked his second home run of the year into the visitor’s bullpen. It helped break a tough streak Gates had going dating back to the Tony Gwynn Legacy where he went just 2-for-13 (.154) with a double and a walk. In five home games this year, Gates is batting 6-for-12 (.500) with two multi-hit games, nine RBIs, and two home runs.
The Hogs broke the game open in the fifth, getting four runs on four hits with three of those runs coming off the home run swing of freshman Heston Kjerstad. It’s the second in six games for the Amarillo native and might have been one of the longest of the season as it traveled well past the bullpen in right field. Kjerstad continues to lead all Razorbacks in hitting through nine games with a .448 average and a .724 slugging percentage. He capped off Thursday’s game with four RBIs in total, which is a season-high, as he had a sacrifice fly in the third inning also.
Dayton’s best chance to score came in the first and second inning as it put multiple runners on against Milligan, but could not bring any of them home. The Flyers got a hit in each of the first two innings along with a couple of walks, but were only able to get four more baserunners between the third and ninth innings.
Milligan, a Greenbrier, Arkansas native, was limited on Wednesday as he threw just 37 pitches over two innings, but was still efficient as he struck out four of the eight batters he faced.
Once he gave way to Bonnin, the Flyers didn’t have an answer as the freshman set down the first seven batters he faced and then was perfect through the sixth and seventh innings. So far this year, Bonnin has held opponents to a .048 batting average in three appearances, the second-lowest average among Razorback pitchers with six or more innings thrown.
“When you look at the last two days, we threw five freshman pitchers and I thought they all did a really good job and gave us an opportunity to save some of our more experienced bullpen guys for the weekend. We’ve got some really good midweek games coming up when we have Texas coming in for two and then we go to Charlotte in the middle of the week. We’re going to have to pitch these guys and get some quality innings. They all threw well enough that they gained confidence and we gained confidence in them.” – Head coach Dave Van Horn on the freshmen pitchers’ performances against Dayton
“I thought he was outstanding today. With six strikeouts, one walk, and throwing the ball as hard as he does, that’s impressive. He showed me that he was under control and wasn’t stomping around on the mound when he didn’t get a call. He acted like he had done it before and just showed a lot of poise out there. I gained a lot of confidence in him today.” – Head coach Dave Van Horn on Bryce Bonnin
“That was fun for the team, I guess. I was just trying to get Eric Cole out of the game. He fouled a ball off his foot last weekend. It’s fine, but it was still bothering him a little bit yesterday and he said he was okay today. I figured if I could save him a couple innings, running around out there, it might help a little bit this weekend. I know I lost our DH when I put Luke (Bonfield) in there, so I asked Coach (Wes) Johnson if he was good with it and he said ‘Yeah.’ I asked (Kole) Ramage and said ‘You hit in high school didn’t you?’ and he said ‘Oh yeah.’ So I said, ‘You know where the batter’s box is then.’ He made his way to it and did a pretty good job. He laid off a curve ball after he saw one they called a strike and got to a full count before getting a single. I think that was his only swing. It was good to see.” – Head coach Dave Van Horn on batting pitcher Kole Ramage in the eighth inning
“That’s big for us. We have been working hard and give credit to the upper class pitching staff for really taking us in and kind of showing us what it takes to pitch in this league. You know, we have been rolling really good and we just want to keep that momentum going into these next three days.” – Bryce Bonnin on the success from the freshmen pitchers
“I am having a great time, especially mixed with all the veterans we have that have been there before and guide us through everything we are going through this year. Plus, the talent that we have at the freshman level is just unbelievable to be a part of.” – Casey Opitz on the freshmen class that has shined early this year
The Razorbacks go right into their three-game series with USC starting on Friday at 3 p.m. Game two will be at 2 p.m., and game three will be at 12:30 p.m. All games will be televised on SEC Network+.
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