FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – It wasn’t the hits that got Arkansas the win Wednesday afternoon against Grambling State, but the Hogs found a way to score the winning run in the bottom of the eighth after some heads up base running by pinch runner Darien Simms. Arkansas defeated Grambling State, 3-2, at Baum Stadium to complete a two-game series sweep over the Tigers and take a five-game winning streak into SEC play this weekend.
The win was the Razorbacks’ eighth this year when holding opponents to two runs or less and was its 15thoverall win on the season. It’s also the best record Arkansas has had heading into conference play since 2012.
Arkansas (15-3), which only managed four hits in the game, struggled in the middle innings to put anybody in scoring position. The Hogs finally took advantage of some key Grambling State (4-11) mistakes in the eighth that started with a Cullen Gassaway walk.
After Simms came on to pinch run for Gassaway, the next batter, Luke Bonfield, worked deep into the count and Simms was able to steal second base, forcing a bad throw from the catcher. As the ball rolled into centerfield, Simms popped up and raced to third, putting the go-ahead run 90 feet away with still only one out.
On the next pitch, Grambling State pitcher, Tanner Raiburn, skyed one over the catchers head for ball four and allowed Simms to score from third, giving the Razorbacks the 3-2 lead.
Freshman lefty, Weston Rogers, got the start Wednesday and went four good innings, but gave up a two-run home run in the fourth inning, which tied the game at 2-2. Rogers finished giving up only two earned runs on three hits, while striking out two and walking none.
Out of the bullpen, Blaine Knight, Josh Alberius and Willey all combined for the final five innings, allowing just three hits and earning six strikeouts. Alberius, who was making his sixth appearance this season, retired six-straight batters on just 25 pitches to win his first game of the season.
Right-handed pitcher Doug Willey shut the door in the ninth, earning his first save of the year in the final frame with a 1-2-3 inning including striking out the final two batters. Willey has been one of Arkansas’ go-to guys out of the bullpen this season as he has yet to give up a run in nine appearances.
The Hogs’ only scores before the eighth inning run by Simms came back in the second and third innings. In the second, senior Michael Bernal delivered the one-out RBI single to left field, which scored Rick Nomura from second. Then, in the third, sophomore Carson Shaddy led off with his third double of the year, before being brought around via the ground out and then the sacrifice fly from Cullen Gassaway.
As a team, Arkansas had seven walks in the game, but struggled to move guys into scoring position multiple times, going 1-for-15 (.067) with runners on base. The seven walks still ties for the fifth-highest total in a game this season.
Arkansas opens SEC play this weekend as it travels to Columbia, S.C., to face No. 12 South Carolina for a three-game series. Friday’s game one is set for a 6:30 p.m. CT first pitch, followed by a 3 p.m. first pitch on Saturday for game two. Sunday’s series finale will be at 12:30 p.m.