FAYETTEVILLE – The No.16 University of Arkansas baseball team totaled three home runs for the second time in as many games to come away with a 10-8 win Saturday afternoon over Troy. Andy Wilkins and Brett Eibner went deep for the second consecutive game, while Zack Cox added his first home run of the season in the victory. Cox equaled his career high with four RBI. Arkansas (4-1) built a six-run lead after the fourth inning but saw its lead cut to two before closing out the game.
"We had some big hits," head coach Dave Van Horn said. "We had a two-run homer and a three-run home run in our big five-run inning. We’re going to win some games that way and we’re going to put up some numbers that way, but we still have to do the little things. I’m disappointed we couldn’t get that run across in the bottom of the eighth. That could have been a big run."
Just as they did in Friday’s game, the Trojans plated a run in the top of the first inning to take the early lead. With the bases loaded and one out, Chase Whitley lifted a fly ball into right center that was misplayed by Jarrod McKinney and allowed the first run to cross the plate. Arkansas starter Drew Smyly ended the threat by striking out the last two hitters of the inning.
The Razorbacks responded quickly and pushed two runs across the plate in the bottom half of the first to grab the lead. McKinney started things with a single to center field. After a walk to Wilkins and a double steal, Arkansas had runners on second and third. With two down, Cox had a two-run single to center field to put his team on top.
Troy scored its second run with the help of another miscue in the outfield by the Hogs in the third. Adam Bryant led off the inning with a double and came around to score on a second error charged to McKinney. The score was tied, 2-2.
Collin Kuhn led off Arkansas’ half of the third with a single which brought Wilkins to the plate. On a 1-0 pitch from Troy starter Shane McCain, Wilkins clubbed a two-run shot over the 40-foot batter’s eye in center field for this team-leading third home run of the season. Later in the inning, Cox and James McCann drew walks in front of Eibner. The preseason All-American made the most of the scoring opportunity with a three-run blast to left field, his second home run of the season.
The visitors cut their deficit to 7-4 with a pair of runs in the fourth. With a runner on, T.J. Rivera hit a two-run home run to left field, the first of two on the day for the Troy infielder.
In the bottom of the fourth, Arkansas cushioned its lead again. Cox lined a two-run home run over the fence in left field to give the Razorbacks the 9-4 lead. Wilkins, who reached on a fielder’s choice, crossed the plate in front of Cox. The next two hitters reached and stood at first and second for Tim Carver. The sophomore infielder singled to left field to plate McCann for the Razorbacks’ tenth, and final, run of the contest.
After giving up a double to the lead-off man in the fifth, Smyly was relieved on the mound by Jeremy Heatley. The Trojans greeted the right-handed senior with back-to-back home runs by Whitley and Blake Martz. The Razorbacks lead was down to 10-7 but Heatley steadied and didn’t allow another hit during his three-inning outing.
"I thought Heatley settled in real well after he gave up a couple of hits coming out of the pen," Van Horn said. "He got through the sixth and seventh and then we were able to get DJ in there who basically went through the middle of the order to finish up in the ninth with a two-run lead. He did a great job right there."
DJ Baxendale entered the game in the eighth inning with the three-run lead. That advantage was cut to two runs after another home run by Rivera in the eighth. Baxendale shook off the home run and retired the next five hitters in order to seal the game and earn his first career save.
With games one and two in hand, the Razorbacks will go for the series sweep Sunday afternoon when the two teams meet in the finale. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. at Baum Stadium. Eibner is set to get the start for Arkansas with Andrew Dickinson expected to start for Troy.