FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Georgia baseball: A Comedy of errors. Arkansas baseball: will take it.
A bunt single that should have been a sacrifice ended up as Arkansas’ game-winning run in the 10th inning of a 5-4 win over the Bulldogs on Friday night.
It was one of the silliest sequences in recent memory.
Eric Cole was at the plate with Evan Lee on first base. Nobody out. Cole came to the plate looking to bunt him over from the first pitch. He did on the second, dropping one halfway between the pitcher and home plate. Georgia pitcher Blake Cairnes fielded it, but delayed on his throw to first base because no one was covering.
By the time someone got over there, Cairnes was rushed. His throw would have been late, anyway, but it went out into foul territory in right field. Lee huffed it to third and thought about coming home. He stayed up as the throw from right came in. But it sailed over the catcher’s head at the plate. Lee thought about it again, but didn’t.
But when the ball caromed off the backstop awkwardly back toward the Arkansas dugout, he took off. Finally. Cairnes scrambled to get the ball. His flip throw was practically behind his back, though, and not even close. Lee scored. Arkansas (28-8, 10-4) won.
It made absolutely no sense in a senseless final two innings.
Arkansas had squandered a two-run lead in the ninth to put itself in that position.
Jake Reindl, who had entered just a batter before, recorded a strikeout to get the first out. He then induced double-play ball to shortstop. Jax Biggers came up with it, tossed to Carson Shaddy at second for the first out. But Shaddy’s throw to first went awry.
Georgia (15-21, 4-10) plated two. Nearly a third came, but Chad Spanberger fired a ball after a close play at first to Grant Koch at the plate to nail a final runner. Umpires had to confirm the ruling on replay.
This was only two innings after Luke Bonfield had given Arkansas a 3-2 lead with a two-run home run.
The victory gives Arkansas the series against the Bulldogs. The teams play the finale on Saturday at 2 p.m. Arkansas has now won five of its six series in the SEC this year. The Diamond Hogs are now alone in first place in the SEC after Auburn lost to Tennessee on Friday.
Georgia had saved its ace, Andrew Gist, for Friday instead of throwing him Game 1 Thursday. He kept Diamond Hogs hitters off-balance, going five innings and giving up six hits and a walk. It wasn’t spectacular but it was enough. And when Michael Curry singled back up-the-middle in the fifth to give Georgia a lead, Gist was in line for the win.
Jax Biggers started the seventh with a double, allowing Arkansas to threaten. Smith sat down Jake Arledge with a flyout and Chad Spanberger with a strikeout looking to bring up Bonfield.
Bonfield and Eric Cole were the only Arkansas hitters to record more than one hit. Cole had three, including a double
Curry did most of Georgia’s damage. His solo home run in the fourth began the scoring. He has six of Georgia’s eight RBIs in the series after plating four in the Game 1 loss Thursday, as well.
Grading the Hogs
Arkansas knocked around 13 base hits in 40 at-bats, good for a .325 average. Razorbacks hitters only walked thrice, which is a bit low. The biggest drop in grade, though, is the 10 left on-base.
Arkansas starter Trevor Stephan didn’t have his best stuff, working in and out of trouble and only lasting 4 2/3 innings. Cannon Chadwick was good in relief, despite giving up the go-ahead run in the fifth. Dominic Taccolini let in both the Georgia runs in the ninth, although only one was earned.
The Big Stick + Arm
He gave up just one hit in his 2 2/3 innings. Timing just stunk that it allowed the go-ahead run to score. Chadwick also didn’t walk anyone in the outing and he struck out three.
He added a single to go with his home run to finish the night 2 for 5. His .329 batting average is now second highest among the Razorbacks regulars.
What’s next for Arkansas?
The series finale is Saturday at 2 p.m.