FAYETTEVILLE, AR (arkansasrazorbacks.com) – Arkansas All-American right-hander Zach Jackson picked up his first save of the season and freshman Blaine Knight registered a win in his collegiate debut, as the No. 22 Razorbacks opened the season with their second straight victory over Central Michigan, 4-3, in front of a huge crowd of 11,341 on Saturday afternoon at Baum Stadium.
Entering the game with two runners in scoring positon with one out in the eighth and Arkansas holding a 3-2 lead, Jackson got the Razorbacks out of the jam with back-to-back strikeouts. The NCBWA Stopper of the Year Watch List member had to work himself out of trouble in the ninth, striking out the final batter of the game on a 2-2 pitch with the bases loaded.
“I thought in the eighth inning he (Jackson) really had that breaking ball working. He had a great spin and downward bite and they struggled with it,” said Van Horn, who improved to 93-15 in the month of February at Arkansas. “There in the ninth inning it wasn’t breaking quite as much, but he did throw a couple of good ones. I thought he handle himself with the state of the situation.”
Jackson struck out four in his 1.2 innings of work to earn his 12th career save. Knight’s win came after solid five innings of work in which he struck out three and allowed two runs on four hits
For the second straight day the top half of the Arkansas lineup provided the offensive spark, combining to go 6-for-13 with three runs scored. True freshman Eric Cole continues to set the table at the leadoff spot, scoring a pair of runs while redshirt sophomore Carson Shaddy put together his second straight multi-hit performance (2-4) in the No. 2 position. Junior Clark Eagan went 2-for-3, highlighted by an RBI single in the two-run fifth inning.
Originally scheduled for noon, Sunday’s series finale will now begin at 11:34 a.m. and can be seen live on SEC Network+ and the WatchESPN App.
Making his first collegiate start in front of a packed Baum Stadium, Knight opened and closed the first inning of his debut with a strikeout. Just like Friday opener, Arkansas took a 1-0 lead after the first inning thanks to Cole leading off the game with a single for the second straight day before coming around to score on a sacrifice fly to center field by senior Cullen Gassaway, good for his third RBI of the weekend.
Central Michigan got to Knight in the top of the fourth, plating a pair of runs to take its first lead of the series at 2-1 and worked out of jam in the bottom half to hold off the Razorbacks.
Knight responded well in the fifth, recording his second 1-2-3 inning of the day to set the stage for the top of the Arkansas lineup. Cole worked a leadoff walk before Shaddy, Eagan and Gassaway delivered three straight singles. Eagan’s second hit of the night came with two strikes and drove in Cole to tie the game at 2-2. With the bases loaded and no outs,
The score remained 3-2 into the bottom of the eighth thanks to Jackson’s breaking ball. Junior Austin Catron took full advantage in the bottom half of the eighth with a pinch-hit RBI single that drove in the eventual game-winning run for a 4-2 lead.
Drama crept into the game in the top of the ninth with two outs, as Jackson loaded the bases and allowed a run that made the score 4-3. For the second straight inning, Jackson worked out of the jam, this time getting the final out on a fastball.
· Over the opening two games of the season, a total of 20,961 fans have watched the Razorbacks start 2-0.
· Arkansas has won its first two games in six straight seasons.
· The Razorbacks have now won 17 straight and 21 of their last 22 games at Baum Stadium in the month of February.
· The win marks the ninth straight three-game series Arkansas has won at Baum Stadium to open the season.
· Out of his last 41 outs recorded in his last six appearances at home, Jackson has 23 strikeouts.
· Jackson has at least one strikeout in 22 of 25 career relief appearances at Baum Stadium.
· Over the first two games, Arkansas’ starting pitchers have given up just five hits in 12 innings with eight strikeouts and one walk.
· Through the first two games, batters 1-5 in the Arkansas lineup have 12 of the team’s 17 hits.
· Cole has scored the first two runs in each of Arkansas’ game this season.
· Marks the first time in Shaddy’s career that he’s had back-to-back multi-hit games.