The Arkansas baseball team wants to host an NCAA Regional at Baum Stadium. Thursday night’s result put them one game closer to achieving that goal.
Chad Spanberger’s go-ahead, two-out, two-run home run in the 10th inning proved to be the winner as the Razorbacks beat Texas A&M, 6-4, in extra innings.
The win ensures, at worst, Arkansas will finish fifth in the SEC standings. The Diamond Hogs’ win combined with Mississippi State’s loss to LSU moved Arkansas into fourth in the SEC standings. Fourth-place or better by late Saturday and the Razorbacks will earn a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament next week. Arkansas can earn that by winning one more game on the weekend than the Bulldogs.
Thursday was a good start.
Jake Arledge singled a batter before Spanberger to set the stage. Spanberger went opposite field – to left – for his 12th of the season to give the Razorbacks the two-run lead.
Texas A&M had just tied it the inning before as the Razorbacks led 4-3 entering the ninth. But Jake Reindl couldn’t finish an excellent start by his starter, Trevor Stephan. Reindl walked the first Texas A&M batter of the ninth and after a failed sacrifice bunt, Cole Bedford doubled to give the Aggies runners at second and third with one out. Jorge Gutierrez’s sacrifice fly tied the game at four runs apiece before Reindl retired Austin Homan with a strikeout swinging to send the game to extra innings.
To add to the drama, Jax Biggers had only just given Arkansas that 4-3 lead in the eighth on the first two-run homer of the night.
Biggers was money all night. The junior-college transfer went 3 for 5 with a go-ahead homer and a double. He’s hitting .335 this season. That mark is best on the team by 28 points.
Biggers’ home run came off Kaylor Chafin, who hadn’t given up a single earned run since the beginning of April. Chafin had gone 26-plus innings since giving up a run. Arkansas freshman Dominic Fletcher started the eighth with a single against Chafin. Biggers followed immediately. He potted the first pitch he saw over the right field fence, right down the line.
Arkansas could have added to the lead in the eighth, loading the bases against Chafin with one out. But Grant Koch grounded into a double play and the Razorbacks’ lead was left at one.
The game was stagnant from the fourth through the seventh. Arkansas scored the first two runs of the game in the second. Biggers started it with an RBI single and Jake Arledge followed two batters later with an RBI single of his own. Texas A&M countered in the third as Braden Shewmake hit a two-out, three-run home run off Trevor Stephan to give the Aggies the lead.
That was the only rough inning Stephan had. He gave up two hits, hit a batter and walked another in the frame. The rest of his night was excellent. Stephan neither walked nor hit another batter and he allowed just three more hits. Ultimately he went 7 2/3 innings and struck out 10 before giving way to Evan Lee, who retired the only batter he faced.
Grading the Hogs
Arkansas had runners on most of the game. A rough 4 for 19 showing with guys on the bags, however, limited the run scoring. Still, putting them there is a positive.
The Aggies had five hits.
The Big Stick + Arm
He is officially the ace of the staff. Even if he doesn’t have Blaine Knight’s MLB possibilities, Stephan has been dominant as of late. Thursday was no different and came in much-appreciated circumstances for his teammates.
Dave Van Horn has hit Biggers at the bottom of the lineup all season and it’s paid off. The sophomore has been stellar since the word ‘go.’
What’s next for Arkansas?
Game 2 of the series is 6:30 p.m. on Friday night.