FAYETTEVILLE – Freshman Tim Carver had two hits including a game-winning single in the fifth inning to rally the No. 1 University of Arkansas baseball team to an 8-7 victory over No. 1 Arizona State in front of a Baum Stadium record 11,014 fans in Fayetteville on Friday night.
Arkansas (24-6) takes two from Arizona State (23-7) who was ranked No. 1 in three national polls entering the midweek series. The Hogs are now 7-1 against teams from the Pacific 10 conference this season.
“This was a great crowd and a great atmosphere,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “When I saw the attendance on the scoreboard I couldn’t believe it. The fans were a big part of both wins against Arizona State and we appreciate the support that we’ve had all season.”
As the game began one could tell that it was going to be an impressive crowd as fans streamed in from the gates. No one would know just how big the crowd was until the seventh inning when it was announced that there were 11,434 tickets sold for the contest and more than 11,000 were in attendance. The two numbers dwarf the already robust Baum Stadium records of 10,727 tickets sold and 10,581 actual attendance set on May 5, 2007 against LSU. The two-game series with Arizona State brought 17,300 fans through the turnstiles, another Razorback record, this one for a midweek series, and the 19,776 tickets sold were also a midweek series record.
The Razorbacks had to rally against the Sun Devils who took advantage of four walks issued by Arkansas pitching and six hits to build a 6-1 lead by the end of the third. A first inning home run by Jason Kipnis, RBI hits by Abe Ruiz, Raoul Torrez and Kipnis had the Sun Devils looking as if they would earn a series split in Fayetteville.
The Hogs would score once in the second inning on three consecutive singles, but it was the Razorback fourth that changed the feel of the game. With one out Andy Wilkins hit a chopper to the shortstop who fielded the ball cleanly and fired to first. The good throw was dropped by Ruiz allowing Wilkins to remain on the bag and firing up the crowd which had been silenced by the Arizona State bats. Sophomore Brett Eibner followed up the error with a ground-rule double to center field and Andrew Darr connected on the second of his three hits into left field to plate both runners and make it a 6-4 game. A sacrifice bunt was followed by three more singles by Carver, Chase Leavitt and Bo Bigham and suddenly the Razorbacks were down by just one, 6-5.
“With the schedule that we play, we’ve been behind a lot this year, but we’ve never panicked,” Van Horn said. “When we were down 5-0, we got a lot of at-bats and both teams were using middle of the week pitching and getting a little bit thin. When we got that inning where they had the error, we took advantage of that. We got some big two out hits and next thing you know we were right back in it and I thought our bullpen did a good job.”
Arizona State added an unearned run in the top of the fifth to make it 7-5, but the Razorback bats were not done as two walks came back to burn the Arizona State pitching staff in the bottom of the inning. Darr singled to score the first run and with two outs Carver came to the plate with runners on second and third and delivered a single to left field plating Eibner and Darr and giving the Razorbacks their first and final lead.
“I told our guys these are two great wins, but I don’t want these games to be the highlight of the season,” Van Horn cautioned. “We have a lot of baseball left to play. I know we have guys in the clubhouse that can stay focused because they know what’s up. I’m just real proud of them with the way they hung in.”
On the mound the Razorbacks had some issues over the opening three innings, but the staff settled in and six pitchers combined to upend the Sun Devils. Zack Cox came into the game with one out in the fifth and tossed three innings of two hit ball with one walk to earn his third victory of the season. Tuesday night’s winner Sam Murphy threw the end of the eighth to earn a hold and Stephen Richards closed out the contest with one inning of work including a pair of strikeouts to end it.
Arkansas pounded out 11 hits in the contest led by Darr’s three and Carver and Eibner’s two each. Other hits for the Razorbacks came from Leavitt, Bigham, Wilkins and catcher James McCann.
The Razorbacks get back into Southeastern Conference play this weekend when they host Vanderbilt for three games beginning on Friday night at 6:35 p.m. For more information regarding Razorback baseball or University of Arkansas athletics please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.