FAYETTEVILLE – Trailing by a pair of runs entering the ninth inning, the No. 14 University of Arkansas baseball team couldn’t complete its rally in a 3-2 loss to South Dakota State Tuesday afternoon at Baum Stadium. With the bases loaded in the last frame for the Razorbacks, pinch hitter Brett Eibner drove in the team’s second run with a long sacrifice fly, closing the gap to one run, but the rally fell short with a strikeout to end the game.
Collin Kuhn, whose RBI single in the second inning gave Arkansas the early lead, had a career-high three stolen bases in the game. Zack Cox collected a base hit in the fourth against the Jackrabbits to extend his season-opening hit streak to 11 games.
In the ninth, Cox led off with a walk and after a single by Tim Carver, the Hogs had runners on second and third with no outs. Matt Reynolds, on to pinch hit, was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Kuhn was called out on strikes for the first out of the inning. Eibner’s RBI flyout brought Cox in to score but South Dakota State reliever Trever Vermeulen struck out Jarrod McKinney for the final out.
"It’s a difficult loss because we just didn’t come through," head coach Dave Van Horn said. "But give (South Dakota State) credit. They pitched out of some jams and did a great job. We had our chances. We just didn’t get the big hit."
Bo Bigham returned to the starting lineup Tuesday afternoon at the No. 2 spot in the Razorbacks’ lineup. In his first at-bat, the sophomore infielder singled through the left side and swiped a bag for his second stolen base of the season. It was the first start for Bigham since suffering a shoulder injury in the season opener. He finished the day 1-for-4.
The Razorbacks got on the scoreboard first with a run in the bottom of the second inning. Matt Vinson drew a walk from South Dakota State starter Alex Oberle with two outs and went on to steal second base. Kuhn delivered with a single to left field to plate Vinson and give Arkansas a 1-0 lead.
The visitors grabbed the lead in their half of the fourth. With runners on first and third with one out, Eric Cain doubled to center field to drive in the two runs. The Razorbacks called on Jason Fuqua to relieve starter Sam Murphy. Fuqua retired the next two hitters, stranding the potential third run on base. In his first start of the season, Murphy allowed two runs on six hits with five strikeouts and no walks.
Arkansas had an opportunity to put runs on the board in the bottom of the fifth. Kuhn was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and designated hitter Kyle Atkins drew a walk to give Arkansas runners on first and second with no outs. McKinney followed by working another walk out of Oberle and the bases were loaded with no outs. But Bigham popped up and Andy Wilkins ground into a double play to end the inning and let the Jackrabbits off the hook.
South Dakota State tacked on another run, the eventual game winner, in the sixth on a solo home run into the Razorback bullpen by Jesse Sawyer, the current Summit League Player of the Week.
After the home run by Sawyer, the Razorback relief tandem of Fuqua and Jeremy Heatley, held South Dakota State to one hit in the final three innings. Heatley pitched the final two innings of Tuesday’s game without allowing a hit or walk and striking out three Jackrabbit hitters.
"I think our relief pitchers did a great job," Van Horn said. "They gave us a chance to get back in the game. I thought Heatley threw extremely well. He had a good fast ball and his breaking ball was fine. He did a great job. That was probably the biggest plus of the day."
The midweek series between the Hogs and South Dakota State wraps up Wednesday at Baum Stadium with first pitch set for 3:05 p.m. The Razorbacks host Wisconsin-Milwaukee this weekend in a three-game series. It will be Arkansas’ final matchup before beginning Southeastern Conference play March 19-21 at LSU.