The team at the top of the SEC had little trouble with the team at the bottom as Arkansas took Game 1 of a three-game set against Alabama on Friday night, 7-1.
The Razorbacks (21-5, 6-1) stay tied atop the Western Division and are now just one win short of the number of SEC wins they had in all of last season.
Arkansas did Friday what Arkansas’ been doing all season to get its sixth league win. The lineup hit a home run and the pitching was full of strikeouts and lacked walks. That formula has been golden all year and against Alabama it was no different.
Luke Bonfield hit a two-run shot in the third inning that provided the Diamond Hogs with a 2-1 lead, the only lead they’d need on the night. The homer was the team’s seventh in its last seven games.
The Arkansas leftfielder followed with an RBI single in the fourth just after Jared Gates scored on a passed ball and Arkansas led 4-1 through four innings.
Behind another glimmering effort from Blaine Knight, it was more than enough. Knight worked eight innings of three-hit ball, striking out seven and walking zero. On the season, Knight now has 48 strikeouts and two walks in 40 1/3 innings.
Alabama (12-14, 1-6) just couldn’t get much of anything going. Not pitching, not hitting, not even fielding. The Crimson Tide had two Arkansas batters, had a passed ball, a wild pitch and dropped a fly ball. Their hitters managed just three hits, two of which came in the first inning. Arkanas hitters chased starter Jake Walters after 4 1/3 innings, giving up five runs on 10 hits and three walks.
Arkansas tacked on a run in the fifth on a Jake Arledge RBI single and another in the seventh when Carson Shaddy knocked in a run with an infield single. The final run came on a Chad Spanberger groundout in the ninth.
Bonfield finished with the best night among Razorbacks hitters. He went 3 for 5 with the home run, 3 RBIs and two runs. Gates joined him with three hits going 3 for 3 with a run and a hit-by-pitch.
Grading the Hogs
The Razorbacks lineup sprayed hits all over the field and across innings. They had 17 total and added another three walks. The only issue, and it’s somewhat large, was the number of runners left-on-base: 14
Two of Alabama’s three hits were doubles, but two of Alabama’s three hits also came in the first inning. The Crimson Tide didn’t threaten a single time after that.
The Big Stick + Arm
It’s almost time to start talking about the Bryant native as the best pitcher in the SEC this season. He retired 19 straight Alabama hitters Friday night, not allowing a single base-runner from the last out of the first inning to the first batter of the eighth.
The most professional potential-laden hitter in the Arkansas lineup is starting to heat up. He entered batting .391 in SEC games and only saw the average, and his ranking in the league, climb after the 3 for 4 night.
What’s next for Arkansas?
The two teams finish the three-game series on Saturday and Sunday. Game 2 is at 7 p.m. and Game 3 at 3 p.m.