NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Staked to a four-run lead, the No. 14 University of Arkansas baseball team held on for a 4-3 win over Vanderbilt Friday night at Hawkins Field. Home runs by Collin Kuhn and Monk Kreder led the Razorbacks’ offensive charge and Mike Bolsinger matched his career high with an eight-inning performance against the 15th-ranked Commodores. The win snaps Arkansas’ five-game losing streak and gives Dave Van Horn his 900th career victory as a collegiate head coach.
Kuhn led off the game with his 12th home run of the season, a solo shot over the 35-foot in left field. The score was the first lead-off home run by a Razorback since Chase Leavitt went yard against Louisiana-Monroe on April 15, 2009. The first inning also featured the return of Zack Cox to the Arkansas lineup. In his first at-bat since last Sunday’s series finale against South Carolina, Cox singled through the right side of the infield but was left stranded as Vanderbilt starter Taylor Hill retired the next three Hogs in order. Cox was 1-for-2 before being replaced by Matt Vinson in the fifth inning.
After a pair of 1-2-3 innings, the Razorbacks struck for three runs in the top of the fourth. Brett Eibner opened the inning with a base hit through the left side. Andy Wilkins followed by tagging the first pitch of his at-bat to straight-away center for an RBI double to give the Hogs a 2-0 lead. With two down, Kreder launched a two-run shot to deep left center, his third long ball of the year, to push the club’s lead to four.
The run support was enough for Bolsinger, making his 10th start of the season. The right-handed senior held the Commodores to one unearned run on four hits. Bolsinger struck out five Vanderbilt hitters and walked just one. The McKinney, Texas, native has tossed eight innings in two of his last three starts.
Bolsinger cruised through the first three innings Friday but ran into his first trouble spot in the bottom of the fourth. Anthony Gomez got things started with a base hit to left field and after hitting Jason Esposito with a pitch, Bolsinger faced a two-on, no-out situation. He retired the next two hitters by strikeout and flyout and looked to be out of the inning when Andrew Giobbi grounded a ball to first. However, Kreder couldn’t field it cleanly allowing Gomez to cross the plate on the error.
In the bottom of the eighth, his last inning of work, Bolsinger gave up a lead-off double to Connor Harrell, but he worked out of the potential jam with three groundball outs. The Razorbacks turned two double plays in the game to push their weekend total to five.
Arkansas took its 4-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth and Eibner moved to the mound from center field to close out the game. After fanning Esposito for the first out, Eibner surrendered a solo home run to Aaron Westlake which cut the Hogs’ lead in half. In an identical situation, Eibner responded to record the second out with a strikeout of Curt Casali but Giobbi brought the Commodores to within one run with the team’s second solo shot of the inning. Eibner, however, got Joe Loftus to fly out to right field to seal the win and earn his first save of the season.
The teams return to action Saturday afternoon for the regular-season finale for both clubs. The matchup is scheduled for a 2 p.m. start and will be televised by SportSouth. It will also be carried by Fox Sports Southwest (Ch. 27 in Northwest Arkansas). Dave Neal and Larry Conley will handle the play-by-play and color commentary duties for the broadcast. Saturday’s game will also be available at ESPN3.com.