FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The Arkansas baseball team needed a series win to keep alive its hopes of hosting a regional in the NCAA Tournament.
The Razorbacks beat Vanderbilt, 7-1, on Sunday in the finale of a three-game set to take the series, two games to one. Arkansas remains in fifth place in the SEC, 1/2-game behind fourth-place Mississippi State and 1 1/2 games ahead of sixth-place Texas A&M. The top four finishers in the conference receive byes at the SEC Tournament next week. Arkansas travels to A&M on Thursday.
The Razorbacks gave themselves a chance to earn that top-four seeding — and, in turn, almost assuredly host — by handling Vanderbilt with ease Sunday.
Arkansas (37-14 overall, 16-10 SEC) scored runs in four different innings, got a relatively lengthy start from Dominic Taccolini and excellence out of the bullpen to roll.
The highlight came in the sixth inning when the Diamond Hogs broke it open on 2 home runs. They weren’t just standard homers, either. Major coincidences.
Dominic Fletcher took the first pitch of the inning to dead right field and high. The ball careened off the foul pole and back into play. Fletcher paused for a second, unsure what happened, before he trotted around the bases.
Chad Spanberger followed a couple batters later with nearly the exact same thing. His pulled shot hit dead center, height and width-wise, on the pole. That homer also scored Jake Arledge, who walked a batter before.
The lead was 6 for Jake Reindl, who entered for Taccolini in the fifth. The sophomore finished the rest, going 4 1/3 innings, giving up 3 hits, no walks and striking out 6.
Arkansas opened things quickly, plating 2 runs in the first inning on a Grant Koch 2-run home run. Vanderbilt (30-21, 13-13) hit back in the second, scoring its lone run on a Julian Infante homer. Jax Biggers and Carson Shaddy had sacrifice flies in back-to-back innings (fourth and fifth) to build Arkansas’ lead to 4-1.
Grading the Hogs
The Razorbacks spread the wealth. Seven batters had a hit. Most of the damage came from the top of the lineup, where the top six guys had 8 of the team’s 10 knocks.
Taccolini’s start wasn’t magical, but in a season in which the Diamond Hogs hadn’t gotten much from their third starter, it was far above average. Combined with Reindl’s great day, Razorbacks pitchers deserved such a win.
The Big Stick + Arm
Reindl’s day was better by the numbers. But Taccolini gave Arkansas its best Game 3 start since March. The senior, in his last regular-season game at Baum Stadium, went 4 2/3 innings, giving up 3 hits and a walk.
He didn’t homer like Spanberger or Fletcher, but a 3-for-3 day with an RBI, a run and a sacrifice fly is strong. Shaddy brought his batting average back near .300 with the day (.299).
What’s next for Arkansas?
Only three games remain during the Razorbacks’ regular season. Arkansas heads to Texas A&M for the final set of the year, a three-gamer on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.