The Arkansas baseball team was handed its first loss of the season Friday.
The Diamond Hogs’ bullpen struggled in relief of Blaine Knight and Cal Poly broke a 3-all tie in the ninth to win, 4-3, out in San Diego as part of the Tony Gwynn Classic. Jake Reindl gave up a two-out RBI single to Alex McKenna as the Mustangs scored the game-winner.
The inning before, Arkansas had its own opportunity, but squandered it.
The Diamond Hogs had runners at second and third with just one out, but Grant Koch struck out and Jordan McFarland, pinch-hitting, grounded out. Game stayed tied headed to the ninth. That came after Arkansas failed to score with two on and one out in the sixth, too, in a tie game. Then it was a 1-all, as a meager pop up in foul territory eliminated Jared Gates and Koch followed with a groundout to third base. Game stayed tied.
Arkansas had already rallied once to force the tie heading to the ninth. Dominic Fletcher’s 2-run homer in the seventh eliminated Cal Poly’s 3-1 lead at that time. The Mustangs had taken advantage of Arkansas mistakes more than Arkansas pitching, necessarily, to go ahead by two.
Blaine Knight had worked six innings of five-hit ball, giving up just the one run and striking out seven Cal Poly hitters. This being just the second weekend, Knight’s 88 pitches were enough to see him hit the showers after six. Enter freshman Jackson Rutledge.
The 6-foot-8 right-hander picked up the first two outs easily. A first-to-third and a groundout back to the mound. A walk put a Cal Poly runner on-base with two down when disaster struck. Rutledge induced another comebacker, but threw it wildly to first. Scott Ogrin, who walked, came around to score after all of it. Rutledge was exited.
Bryce Bonnin, the top-ranked freshman in the class, was his heir. A wild pitch let that previous runner, Dylan Doherty from the 9-hole, score.
Heston Kjerstad’s RBI groundout in the fourth inning tied the game at 1. It came after Eric Cole had a one-out single and Luke Bonfield followed him with a double, moving Cole to third base.
Grading the Hogs
Cal Poly’s runs came off mistakes in the field, technically, rather than pitching. Arkansas hurlers combined to give up just seve hits, walk one batter and strike out 10. Only two of the runs were earned. Most days that’s superb.
Two straight games now the Razorbacks’ lineup has struggled. Koch’s difficulties were most magnified Friday, but it was a modest day all the way around.
The Big Stick + The Arm
The senior’s excellent start to the season continues. He’s an All-American for a reason.
He had just the one hit, but it was the biggest one of the day. Votes could go to Bonfield and Carson Shaddy, who had two knocks apiece.
What’s next for Arkansas?
Arkansas arrived in California with four games to play. Two down so far and the Hogs are 1-1. Saturday’s game is against San Diego. Sunday’s finale is against San Diego State.