FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — No one deserved to join the good times Thursday night more than Alex Gosser.
The little-used senior catcher is commonly called the heart of the Arkansas baseball team by his teammates. Some of it is in jest as Gosser rarely sees much action behind All-SEC candidate Grant Koch. Most of it, though, is legit.
And every person around the team was happy to see what he did against Georgia.
With the game well under control and every Arkansas hitter enjoying the night, Gosser, who came off the bench in the later innings, sent a solo home run well beyond the right-field wall in the eighth inning. His first ever in four seasons in Fayetteville. It was the perfect punctuation mark to a 14-4 Razorbacks win.
And coincidentally, it was the 50th home run of the season, or 1 more than Arkansas had in the entire 2016 season.
Enjoyable as it was, it was hardly necessary.
Arkansas (27-8 overall, 9-4 SEC) scored 7 runs in the third inning to put things away early. The Bulldogs provided all the “help” they could, too.
Georgia (15-20, 4-9) fielders had 2 errors. The hitters had 7 hits. The pitchers walked 4, hit 3 with pitches and made 5 wild tosses. For good measure, Georgia ran itself out of a scoring situation when on a fly ball in the fifth inning, a Bulldogs runner left second base too early upon the ball being caught. The throw went to third, where the runner thought he was safe; third baseman Jared Gates threw over to second and the Georgia player was called out on appeal.
Cue the Benny Hill theme song.
Arkansas took advantage of the worst ERA pitching staff in the SEC. Chad Spanberger homered in the first and hit a 2-run double in the second to give the Razorbacks their first 3 runs. Carson Shaddy began things in the third with a solo shot and Luke Bonfield finished the scoring that inning with a 3-run job.
Blaine Knight did his usual job as the starting pitcher. He has been the winning pitcher in each of Arkansas’ 5 SEC games this season.
The win allowed Arkansas to keep pace atop the SEC standings. The Razorbacks entered the night tied with Auburn, Kentucky and Mississippi State. Auburn won Thursday night and the other two teams play the first game in their series Friday.
Grading the Hogs
Zero to complain about in this regard. Every Arkansas starter reached base at least once, save freshman center fielder Dominic Fletcher.
The thing about these blowouts, and Arkansas has had a few, is that coach Dave Van Horn goes deep into his bullpen. The numbers get kind of skewed. Knight was good in the start, but his replacement, Jacob Kostyshock, and *his* replacement, Weston Rogers were not. Barrett Loseke settled things finally.
The Big Stick + Arm
Arm: Blaine Knight
It was actually a ho-hum start for Knight. He has set the bar that high. Knight worked 6 innings of 5-hit ball, walking 1 and striking out 5. He gave way in the blowout after 88 pitches. No need to make him work longer in an easy win.
Stick: Chad Spanberger
He just continues to rake. Spanberger finished 2 for 3 with a home run, a double, 2 walks, 3 RBI, 3 runs and a partridge in a pear tree. The night put him at .300 on the season, giving Arkansas its sixth regular starter at that mark or higher.
What’s next for Arkansas?
Two games remain in the series with Georgia. The next is Friday at 6 p.m.