FAYETTEVILLE – Matt Vinson made his first home run as a Razorback a memorable one. Facing a two-strike count in the bottom of the tenth inning, the Alma, Ark., native belted a solo shot over the wall in center field to send the No. 14 University of Arkansas baseball team to a 3-2 win over Wisconsin-Milwaukee Sunday afternoon at Baum Stadium. The Razorbacks (12-3) rallied from a two-run deficit in the ninth to force extra innings, their first of the 2010 season.
"That was the first (walk-off hit) in my baseball career," Vinson said. "I’d never had a home run, single or anything to end a game. The crowd was great, but seeing my teammates waiting for me at home plate to celebrate was the best part."
The Razorback freshman started all three games of the weekend series against UWM (4-8) and used the playing time to score five runs, draw five walks and tally two RBI. Vinson has three hits this season-two triples and Sunday’s home run-and has gotten on base to score eight runs this season.
"We kept plugging him in there and said he’s going to come through," head coach Dave Van Horn said. "Everybody on the bench knows what kind of power he’s got and he’s got it from both sides of the plate. With the wind blowing out, we were all in here thinking he might pop one. It’s got to be a thrill for him, to have his first collegiate home run be a walk-off."
With one down in the bottom of the ninth, the Razorbacks finally broke through against UWM starter Jordan Herbert. Collin Kuhn and Zack Cox stood on first and second after a fielder’s choice and single, respectively. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch. Bo Bigham drove in the Hogs’ first run of the game with an RBI groundout but the club was down to its final out. Andy Wilkins, the next hitter, was hit by a pitch during his at-bat.
James McCann came to the plate but didn’t have to swing the bat to even the score as Herbert uncorked another wild pitch, his third of the inning, and Cox slid into home with the tying run. The score was tied, 2-2.
Through the first eight innings, Herbert held the Razorbacks without a run and allowed just two hits. He began to unravel in the ninth, though, and Arkansas was able to capitalize.
"It was a disappointing game up until the ninth inning," Van Horn said. "We hit way too many fly balls. Ahead in the count, guys were getting jammed and just trying to do too much but we found a way.
"I made a comment to them that good teams find a way to come back and win. I didn’t know if we were going to win and I don’t know if we are a good team but we came back and won the game. Whether we deserved to or not, that’s what you have to do in the long season-win games when you probably shouldn’t."
Arkansas starter Brett Eibner worked out of two-on, one-out situation in the top of the first. After giving up back-to-back singles up the middle, Eibner struck out the next two UWM hitters to get out of the inning unscathed. He finished the ballgame with 3.2 innings of work, giving way to Geoffrey Davenport.
The Panthers scored the first run of the game on an RBI single by Doug Dekoning in the fourth. The visitors had two on with no outs after a leadoff single and an error at first. Eibner got the next two hitters out before giving up the base hit to Dekoning. It was UWM’s first score since the sixth inning of the series opener. Davenport came in to record the final out of the frame.
Cox led off the home half of the fourth with a double down the line in right field. The extra-base knock extended the sophomore’s season-opening hit streak to 15 games. However, the Razorbacks were retired in order following the double to leave Cox stranded at second base. During his 15-game streak, Cox has 25 hits and leads the team with a .410 batting average.
Tim Patzman gave UWM a 2-0 lead with a solo home run off Davenport in the top of the sixth.
Jeremy Heatley pitched the final four innings Sunday for the Razorbacks on his way to picking up the win. In the top of the ninth, the Panthers had a runner on second with one out after a single and subsequent sacrifice bunt, but Heatley struck out the next to batters to keep the Arkansas deficit to two runs and allow for the rally. He finished the game with four strikeouts and no walks.
"For me, Heatley was the guy," Van Horn said. "He’s the guy that kept us right there, just down two runs, and he pitched outstanding. He had to go through the top of their order in the top of the tenth and we felt like if we could get through that, we’d have a chance and he did a tremendous job for us."
The win was the second come-from-behind victory of the weekend for the Hogs. At 12-3 through the first 15 games, Arkansas equals its start to the 2009 season. With no midweek games, the Razorbacks will turn their attention to the beginning of Southeastern Conference play, a weekend series at defending national champion LSU. The three-game league opener will be played March 19-21 at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. All three games of series will be televised by Cox Sports Television.