FAYETTEVILLE – Behind a complete-game performance by Drew Smyly, the No. 7 University of Arkansas baseball team won its ninth-consecutive game with a 10-2 win over Georgia Friday night in front of an announced crowd of 9,047 at Baum Stadium. Smyly struck out seven Bulldog hitters and walked none en route to posting the first complete game of his career. Andy Wilkins led the Hogs’ offensive charge with four RBI, while Bo Bigham reached base five times and scored three runs.
"In the first inning, (Smyly) got a couple pitches up," head coach Dave Van Horn said. "He settled in from the second inning on, obviously, and he gave us a chance to settle in a little bit, too. In the first inning, both teams got after it, offensively, but then after a couple of innings, we just started chipping away. Two here, one there and we got a couple of two-out hits that us a three-run lead. We played a solid game and slowly pulled away. But the key to the game was Drew Smyly. He did a good job for us."
Georgia (11-23, 3-10 SEC) struck first with a pair of runs in the top of the opening inning. Peter Verdin reached with a one-out double and the Bulldogs cashed in on two RBI singles by Zach Cone and Levi Hyams. Smyly induced an inning-ending ground ball to escape further damage.
The Razorbacks wasted no time in digging themselves out of their early deficit. Collin Kuhn led off the bottom of the first with a single to left field and Bigham followed by drawing a walk from Georgia starter Justin Grimm. With one down, Wilkins put the Hogs on top with a three-run blast to center field, his first long ball since March 30 against Centenary. The Broken Arrow, Okla., native is one home run shy of moving into a tie for fourth place on Arkansas’ career list.
"(Wilkins) hit the first pitch off the batters eye and we go from two runs down to a run up," Van Horn said. "I think some guys relaxed a little bit after that. I think Smyly relaxed. Andy made some super (defensive) plays. He made a sliding catch against the fence over there (in the sixth inning). He played that hot shot, picked it and tagged the bag and threw a nice double-play ball to second (also in the sixth) and it looked like things were going our way."
After the bumpy start, Smyly locked in and kept the Bulldogs off the scoreboard for the remainder of the game. Georgia collected just five hits over the final eight innings of Friday’s contest. Smyly’s complete game is the first of the season for Arkansas, and the first for a Razorback since Brett Eibner tossed a complete-game shutout against Georgia last year in Athens. Smyly has thrown at least seven innings in his last three outings.
With the Bulldog offense in check, Arkansas (29-6, 10-3) scored in each of its final five appearances at the plate. In the fourth with runners on first and third, Zack Cox singled to center field to drive in Tim Carver. Wilkins followed with an RBI base hit of his own to plate Bigham. The Hogs added a run in the fifth when Travis Sample tripled to center and came in to score on a wild pitch by Grimm. Cox and Sample both extended their hitting streaks to 10 and 11 games, respectively, and Arkansas led, 6-2, after five.
In the sixth, Bigham led off the frame with a single and Cox backed him up with an RBI double. Cox now has at least two hits in seven consecutive games. Standing on third after a stolen base, Cox came in to score on a base hit through the left side by Eibner, who finished the game 2-for-5 with a solo home run in the eighth, the Hogs’ 10th and final score of the game.
Carver scored his second run in the seventh. He also had two hits against the Bulldogs and added a walk. Arkansas’ designated hitter Monk Kreder extended his hitting streak to 17 games with a single to right field in the third inning. As a team, the Razorbacks posted their 14th consecutive game with at least 10 hits.
With the series opener in the books, Arkansas and Georgia return to the field Saturday at 2:05 p.m. for game two of their Southeastern Conference showdown. The Razorbacks will hand the ball to Eibner (2-2, 3.76 ERA) while the Bulldogs will counter with RHP Jeff Walters (1-2, 7.34) on the mound. An audio and video stream of the ball game will be available on the Razorbacks’ official online home, ArkansasRazorbacks.com.