Arkansas Baseball tops Kentucky as McKinney tosses gem - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Arkansas Baseball tops Kentucky as McKinney tosses gem

FAYETTEVILLE, AR (arkansasrazorbacks.com) – The University of Arkansas baseball team (20-16, 7-8) used a complete-game performance from freshman Keaton McKinney as the Razorbacks captured their third straight SEC series win behind a 7-3 victory over Kentucky (19-15, 5-9) Sunday afternoon at Baum Stadium.

McKinney (2-1) was nearly untouchable, allowing his first hit of the game with two outs in the fourth inning, before retiring 11 consecutive batters from the fifth inning through the eighth frame.

He became the first freshman pitcher in the SEC this season to record a complete-game victory as he finished with a career-high five strikeouts and allowed just five hits, while walking one.

The Razorbacks backed McKinney from the opening pitch, as Clark Eagan led off the game with an infield single, Joe Serrano followed with a walk and Andrew Benintendi lined a single to left field to plate the first run of the game.

Arkansas used some two-out magic in the third inning when Rick Nomura delivered a run-scoring single and Michael Bernal added a two-run double to cap a three-run inning and push the Razorback lead to 4-0.

Tyler Spoon provided some insurance in the eighth inning when he led off with a solo blast to right field for his fourth long ball of the year, while Nomura lined another RBI single to left as part of a three-run inning to make it 7-0.

Kentucky came back in the ninth inning and scored three runs, but McKinney recorded the final out to earn his first collegiate complete-game victory.

The Razorbacks played errorless ball on defense, led by a series of stellar plays at shortstop by Bernal who finished with six assists on the day.

Arkansas plays five more games next week, welcoming Stephen F. Austin to town Tuesday-Wednesday, before traveling to top-ranked Texas A&M for a three-game SEC series Friday-Sunday.

Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn opening statement: “Good job by our team, bouncing back.  I'm proud of them.  They came out and got after it.  It was a great pitching performance by McKinney.  We needed that.  We played really well and we got them.”

Van Horn on Keaton McKinney's performance: “He really didn't throw his curveball at all, he just threw fastballs and changeups.  He located them.  He got them out front and got a lot of fly balls, ground balls.  A couple of innings there five out of six outs were ground balls.  He'd throw the fastball on them, then he'd throw the changeup away.  He just mixed it up, threw a lot of strikes and got ahead of a lot of hitters.”

Sophomore center fielder Andrew Benintendi on his offensive consistency: “I think right now I just feel comfortable.  I think I'm seeing the ball well.  It's baseball, so Tuesday I could go 0-for-0.  It's just day-by-day kind of thing and hopefully I can keep it rolling and we can keep winning.”

Junior shortstop Michael Bernal on Keaton McKinney: “It was great.  Anytime you see a young guy like that show that confidence and that demeanor he has on the mound is great.  He got ahead early in the counts, threw a lot of strikes and dominated.  He was putting the ball where he wanted to and getting ground ball outs.  That's the type of pitcher he is.”

Bernal on winning three SEC series in a row: “It's great.  You can just tell that everybody is a little relieved just to know that all the work we've been putting in is good, it's showing up.  We had some good games earlier in the year that we felt like we could have or should have won and we battled.  It's good to see that pay off.  We're a little bit relieved, feel a lot better and feel a lot more comfortable.”

Freshman RHP Keaton McKinney on his role for the Hogs: “I just try to do whatever I can.  I know I've been in relief, starting a lot midweek.  I'm just trying to do whatever I can to get this team some wins and carry it on to the next outing.”

Game Notes

  • Arkansas has won three consecutive SEC series over Ole Miss, Auburn and Kentucky.
  • The Razorbacks have hit 35 home runs in 36 games this season.
  • Arkansas turned seven double plays on the weekend series to bring the season total to 41, the second-best mark in the SEC.
  • All nine starters in the lineup Sunday reached base with seven of them reaching multiple times.
  • Andrew Benintendi extended his hitting streak to nine games to tie his career-high.
  • Benintendi added two more hits to record his team-best 15th multi-hit game of the year.
  • Keaton McKinney recorded Arkansas' first complete-game victory of the year and becomes the first Razorback to earn a complete-game victory since Jalen Beeks against South Carolina on April 4, 2014.
  • McKinney is the first freshman in the SEC to throw a complete-game this season.
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