FAYETTEVILLE – Down to his final strike, and the team’s last out, Collin Kuhn hit his first career grand slam off Kentucky closer Matt Little to send the No. 10 University of Arkansas baseball team to a 17-16 win over the Wildcats Sunday afternoon at Baum Stadium. The Razorbacks trailed by three runs entering the bottom of the ninth inning after giving up an eight-run lead of their own. Kuhn finished the game with a career-high four hits.
"This might be the craziest game I’ve ever been involved in," head coach Dave Van Horn said. "There was a lot of emotion out there and both teams really wanted to win. They start with a five-run lead and then we had an eight-run lead. We were down to our last strike and if you think about that last inning, McKinney got a 3-2 (count) walk, McCann had a 3-2 base hit, Wilkins got a 3-2 walk and then Collin hits a 2-2 slider with one arm.
"We pretty much got the same home run (Kentucky) got. When it left the bat, they’re probably thinking it’s just a fly ball to left, but right when it left the bat, I said ‘it’s gone,’ because there was nothing to stop it. So to answer the question, that could be the craziest game I’ve been involved in because of the number of runs scored."
The 33 combined runs are the most scored at Baum Stadium since Arkansas (28 runs) and Wisconsin-Milwaukee (2) combined to score 30 runs in 2007. The Razorbacks’ 19 hits are a season high, while the 17 runs are the most scored by the club in a Southeastern Conference game this season. Arkansas (22-6, 6-3 SEC) scored 35 runs and pounded out 48 hits during the three-game series against the Wildcats.
James McCann tied his career high with four RBI with a 3-for-6 effort at the plate which included his fifth home run of the season. Bo Bigham and Travis Sample also collected three hits each in the win. Sample has six hits in his last eight at-bats. Returning from Friday’s rough start, Mike Bolsinger (4-1) recorded the final four outs in a relief appearance to pick up the win, while Little was pegged with his first loss of the season.
In the decisive ninth, Jarrod McKinney sandwiched a walk between two outs. McCann singled to right field to keep the Hogs alive which brought Andy Wilkins off the bench for a pinch-hit opportunity. Wilkins, who was taken out of Saturday’s game with a hamstring injury, drew a walk without ever swinging the bat and the bases were loaded. Kyle Atkins came in to pinch run for Wilkins but his speed wasn’t required as he jogged around the bases and touched home ahead of Kuhn’s game-winning score.
After a smooth first inning of work on the mound, Arkansas starter Brett Eibner gave up five runs-four earned-in the top of the second. The Wildcats used a pair of home runs in the frame, a three-run shot by Taylor Black and a solo homer by Andy Burns, to take an early 5-0 advantage.
The Hogs responded immediately, however, to take the lead in the home half of the second. Monk Kreder extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a flare single to right field to lead off the inning. After a Sample single, Tim Carver came through with an RBI single to plate Kreder. McCann provided the loudest hit of the inning with a three-run blast to left that cut Arkansas’ deficit to one.
Still working with no outs, Matt Vinson drew a walk and Kuhn was hit by a pitch to continue the second-inning rally. Bigham tied the score, 5-all, with a double to left center that brought Vinson home and moved Kuhn over to third. Zack Cox drove in the go-ahead run with a grounder to the second baseman; an errant throw by the UK infielder allowed Cox to stay at first. A balk by Kentucky starter Alex Meyer allowed Bigham to score from third to push the Arkansas lead to two runs. Sample posted his second hit of the inning, an RBI single up the middle, to give Arkansas the 8-5 lead.
The Razorbacks padded their lead with two runs in the third. Meyer retired the first two Arkansas hitters, but Kuhn and Bigham had back-to-back singles to extend the inning. Cox followed with a single to center that scored Kuhn. Bigham advanced to third on the play and Cox moved in to second on the throw to the plate. Bigham eventually came in to score the Hogs’ 10th run on a Meyer wild pitch.
The home team tacked on three more runs in the fourth. With down in the inning, Sample collected his third hit of the day with another base hit up the middle. Carver drove him in with a double down the line in left field. McCann collected another RBI hit with a single to center field but was thrown out trying to slide into second, but Carver still scored on the play. Vinson followed with a base hit up the middle. After a bunt single by Kuhn, Bigham singled through the left side of the infield to plate Vinson and, at the end of four innings, the Hogs led, 13-5.
Kentucky (18-11, 2-7) started to chip away about Arkansas’ lead with two runs in the fifth and sixth innings. Gunner Glad hit a two-run home run in the fifth and Burns did the same in the sixth to cut in to their team’s deficit, but the Hogs still led, 13-9.
After a scoreless seventh for both teams, the Wildcats struck for seven runs in the eighth off reliever DJ Baxendale. Chad Wright had an RBI single to kick start the scoring barrage. Later in the inning, with the bases loaded, Glad came through with a two-run single. Chris Bisson scored on a Cory Farris single to pull Kentucky even on the scoreboard. Keenan Wiley capped the inning with a three-run shot to left field to give the visitors a 16-13 lead.
The Razorbacks return to the field Wednesday evening for a midweek contest against Saint Louis. First pitch of the non-conference matchup is scheduled for a 6:35 p.m. at Baum Stadium. The game with the Billikens will mark an end to Arkansas’ nine-game homestand.