FAYETTEVILLE – Razorback sophomore Drew Smyly tallied a season-high 11 strikeouts Saturday afternoon as the No. 14 University of Arkansas baseball team blanked Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 7-0. In addition to his strikeout total, Smyly pitched a season-high seven innings, surrendering just four hits and two walks. Smyly’s 11-strikeout performance is one short of his career high.
"(Smyly) did good today," head coach Dave Van Horn said. "He came out and was pretty much all around the zone as far as throwing the ball where he wanted to. He got into a couple jams but he’s pretty good with getting out of them. I think he threw right around 100 pitches in seven innings and that’s a good tune up. That’s where we wanted him to go today."
Collin Kuhn and Andy Wilkins each homered in the game and drove in two runs in the victory. With his home run Saturday, the 33rd of his career, Wilkins moves into a tie for eighth place on Arkansas’ all-time list. He shares the spot with former Razorback standouts Kevin McReynolds (1979-81) and Ryan Fox (2001-03).
Bo Bigham drove in the Razorbacks’ first run with an RBI double to left center in the bottom of the second. With one down in the frame, Monk Kreder pulled into second after a double to the alley in right center. Since returning to the starting lineup, Bigham is 7-for-16 (.438) with eight RBI and four runs scored.
Kuhn led off the home half of the third with a solo shot to left field. The Razorbacks led, 2-0, after the sophomore outfielder’s second home run of the season.
Smyly was sharp in Saturday’s outing against the Panthers. He ran into some trouble but pitched out of a jam in the fifth inning with runners at second and third with just one out. Smyly struck out Nino Guerrero for the second out. The next hitter grounded a ball that looked to be going into the outfield but Bigham made a nice diving stop to his right and gathered himself to throw to first for the third out to eliminate the potential scoring threat for UWM.
"The play of the game was Bigham’s dive up the middle," Van Horn said. "If he doesn’t make the play, it’s 2-2 and the momentum swings over to them a little bit. Defense will win you a lot of games. We made some good plays last night but that was definitely the biggest play of the day."
The Hogs opened things up with a four-run seventh inning. A three-base outfield error allowed Matt Vinson to motor around to third base and eventually came in to score on a sacrifice fly by Kuhn. Wilkins lined a two-run homer over the fence just to the right of the scoreboard in right center. It was his sixth home run of the season. James McCann continued the inning with a single into center field. Kreder drove McCann home with a single to left field to cap the frame.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Razorbacks scored their seventh, and final, run of the game. Arkansas had the bases loaded after a walk to Vinson, a plunking of Kuhn and another walk, this time issued to Cox. UWM recorded two outs before an error at third base extended the inning and allowed Vinson to score.
In a non-save situation, DJ Baxendale came out of the bullpen to work the last two innings of the game. He struck out three, including the final hitter of the game, to preserve the club’s first shutout of the season.
The Razorbacks will go for the sweep of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in Sunday’s series finale. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m. at Baum Stadium. Brett Eibner will get the start for the Razorbacks, while the Panthers will counter with Jordan Herbert.