FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — My, how the tables turned.
The 2016 Arkansas baseball season saw several big innings against the Razorbacks. Usually, they came early in games. The series opener Friday against Bryant was looking like a blast from the past.
The visitors weren’t interested in making things easy for themselves, though.
Arkansas scored 10 runs in the sixth inning, rallying from a 3-0 deficit, and the Diamond Hogs defeated a powerhouse Bryant team, 11-8, at Baum Stadium.
Fifteen Arkansas batters came to the plate that inning. Ten scored, including each slot in the lineup. Arkansas (4-0) batted around plus one before Bryant managed to record an out. Little else needed to be done after that except handing the favor back.
If it were 2016, that might have happened. Not Friday. The Arkansas bullpen held up enough as Bryant (2-3) tried to reverse its fortunes. The big inning was too much.
Arkansas had 1 hit off Bryant starter James Karinchak entering the sixth. He was staked to his 3-run lead after the fourth and was cruising. But a double, a walk and a Grant Koch 2-run triple to start the sixth signaled the end of his day. Matt Knych struggled in relief. He hit Dominic Fletcher to start, gave up a single to Carson Shaddy, plunked Chad Spanberger, then walked Jax Biggers to force in the go-ahead run.
Knych didn’t record an out, so Matt Owens tried his hand. He got 2 before he was yanked. Owens gave up 2 walks, a hit, hit a batter and allowed a sacrifice fly, and he, too, was finished. When Nathan Wrighter came on to get Spanberger to foul out, the damage was done. Arkansas scored 10 runs on 4 hits in the inning, ruining Karinchak’s 5 dominant innings.
All this came after Blaine Knight was only OK in his start for the Razorbacks. Knight struck out 4, walked 1 and gave up 4 hits in 5 innings. He left with his team trailing by 3. Dominic Taccolini was the beneficiary of the offensive outburst, coming on a half-inning before Bryant’s collapse.
Koch, Evan Lee and Eric Cole each had 2 hits for Arkansas. Koch knocked in 4 runs, and he and Lee each scored 2.
The Bulldogs brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth after Cody Scroggins allowed the first three batters to reach. Josh Alberius induced a double play to get 2 outs and then struck out the final batter to end things.
The win was Arkansas’ fourth consecutive to start the season. The Razorbacks swept Miami (Ohi0) in the opening weekend. Bryant was a far tougher opponent. Karinchak is rated the 16th-best pitcher in the country by D1Baseball.com, and the Bulldogs were a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament last year.
Grading the Hogs
Knight was decent, but his bullpen wasn’t great. Jake Reindl, Kacey Murphy, Cannon Chadwick and Scroggins allowed 10 base runners and 5 runs during the final 3 innings. Taccolini struck out 2 but walked 2 in his inning.
Eleven runs are great. Seven hits are fair. Arkansas coaxed another 6 walks, which helps, too.
The Big Stick + The Arm
His WHIP (walks + hits per inning) was a very good 1.00, and he struck out 4 in 5 innings. Good outing, not great.
The Arkansas catcher was a monster. His 2-run triple in the sixth started the big inning, and he plated another run later that inning when he reached on a throwing error. He ended his night with a home run to start the eighth. His line: 2 for 5, 3B, HR, 4 RBI, 2 R
What’s next for Arkansas?
Game 2 of the series is Saturday at 2 p.m. CT.