FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas’ offense put up two big innings Friday night at Baum Stadium and starting pitcher Blaine Knight remained undefeated on the year, tying a career-high 11 strikeouts over seven innings to help the No. 6 Arkansas Razorbacks to a 9-3 series-opening win over No. 20 Texas A&M.
Arkansas (34-15, 15-10 SEC) jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning capped by a three-run home run by Carson Shaddy, his 10th of the year. Then, it added five more runs in the fifth to force Texas A&M starter Mitchell Kilkenny out of the game in what ended up being his shortest outing of the year.
In that frame, the Hogs scored runs on a bases-loaded walk and a bases-loaded hit by pitch. Junior Eric Cole finally broke through in the next at-bat with a two-RBI single with two outs, breaking the game wide open. It was Cole’s only hit but came at a crucial point where the Aggies couldn’t answer.
The win is the Razorbacks’ eighth straight at home and ups their total home record to 28-3, which includes a win at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock. In just home games this year, the Hogs are averaging 8.6 runs per game and have scored five or more in their last six home contests.
Arkansas continues to hold strong to the lead in the SEC Western Division with the victory. Now at 15-10, the Razorbacks are a half-game up on the Ole Miss Rebels, who have already won two games against the Auburn Tigers this week after starting their series on Thursday.
Arkansas’ offensive production came from much of the top half of the lineup Friday night. Arkansas’ Nos. 2, 4, and 5 hitters came away with seven of the team’s 10 hits in the game. Freshman Casey Martin quietly came away with a 3-for-4 night and one RBI, leading all hitters. It was his fourth game with three or more hits this year.
Luke Bonfield and Dominic Fletcher also turned in multi-hit performances with two hits apiece. Bonfield’s first hit of the game was huge in the first inning as it came with two outs. Two batters later, Shaddy cleared the bases with his three-run bomb to put the Hogs up early.
Friday’s game was Arkansas’ 28th with 10 or more hits and it is now 23-6 in those games. In eight of their last 12 games, the Hogs have totaled 10 or more hits, six of those games have been victories.
Knight gave his strongest performance of the season, working a season-high seven innings with only three runs allowed, all off the home run. He also tied his career-high with 11 strikeouts and moves up to eighth all-time in school history with 22 career strikeouts, passing Rob Quarnstrom (216), DJ Baxendale (217), and Charlie Isaacson (219).
Tonight’s outing was also Knight’s 10th of five innings or more. He has only gone short of five innings twice this year and has yet to give up more than three runs in each of his last four starts.
Knight came out before the start of the eighth inning and gave way to junior Jake Reindl, who struck out four over two innings with one hit allowed.
Reindl has been one of Arkansas’ best options out of the bullpen lately as he’s allowed just three runs in his last eight appearances and has now struck out two or more batters in six straight games.
“I thought he really commanded his fastball, in and out. His cutter, they were having trouble hitting it. It was running from those right-handers. That breaking ball, the slower breaking ball, about 72 mph every time you look up there. Then he mixed in a few sliders. He had it all going.” – Head Coach Dave Van Horn on Blaine Knight’s dominant pitching
“(Luke) Bonfield got a big hit in the first to keep some stuff going. He sees a lot of pitches, he had full counts, he just battles. I thought he had a tremendous approach. Obviously, Shaddy’s swing gave us a four-run lead at the time, gave us a chance to relax a little bit. Those are two of the older guys that we hope to lead us down the stretch.” – Head Coach Dave Van Horn on Senior players performances
“(Mitchell) Kilkenny doesn’t throw the ball in the middle of the plate much. He can really throw to his glove side, which is away to the right-handed hitters. I think the pitch that Shaddy hit was just left over the plate a little bit and he got it. He’s a good pitcher, throws the ball with downhill tilt. I don’t think he had the command he normally has. I think our approach was to stay aggressive and that’s what he did” – Head Coach Dave Van Horn on hitting Mitchell Kilkenny so well
“I don’t think A&M was really ready for the curveball as much as they were for the cutter. I think if you look back at my past games I only throw that curveball a handful of times. I threw it way more tonight and I think that caught them off guard a little bit. Everything was working good.” – Blaine Knight on his strong secondary pitches.
“First pitch I took was a ball outside, and I was telling myself cover the outside corner and look for a slider up. He made a good pitch it was just low and inside. My instincts took over and I didn’t really think about I just put my bat on the ball and good things happened.” – Carson Shaddy on his three-run home run in the first inning
“I fed off (Jack) Kenley and Hunter (Wilson) in front of me. They both had good at-bats and both got down two strikes real quick and fought off pitches. I fed off that and knew it was my turn. Seeing what they did really helped me out and he had a good pitch on me and I just capped it, luckily it fell.” – Eric Cole on his bases loaded two-RBI single in the fifth inning
Arkansas and Texas A&M will be back on the field for game two of the series tomorrow starting at 1 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN2. Saturday will also be Senior Day for Luke Bonfield, Carson Shaddy, Jared Gates. Those recognition ceremonies will start at roughly 12:30 p.m.
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