Hoover, AL (UofA) — The fourth-seeded Razorback baseball team continued to swing the hot bat Saturday afternoon in the SEC Tournament semifinals, smashing four home runs, two from Chad Spanberger, against the top-seeded Florida Gators to win 16-0 in run-rule fashion, its second run-rule win of the tournament.
The win puts Arkansas in the SEC Tournament championship game for the first time since 2007, where it will face two-seed LSU at 2 p.m. Sunday at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. It will be the fourth tournament championship appearance in program history (1998, 1999, 2007) and the Hogs will be looking for its first victory in the final game.
Arkansas pounded out 15 hits in the game and scored its first eight runs in the first two innings. The 16 runs easily surpasses its previous high of 10 in a tournament game (2009 vs. Florida; 1998 vs. Mississippi State) and it's the third-most lopsided win in tournament history.
As for the pitching, the Hogs secured their second shutout of the week after sophomore Kacey Murphy threw a complete seven innings, allowing just two hits and three walks, while striking out eight. It's the second complete game shutout for an Arkansas pitcher this season and he's the third starting pitcher to strike out five or more batters in this year's tournament.
Spanberger, who has had one of the best tournament performances in SEC history, continued to mash by going 3-for-6 (.500) with three runs scored and three RBIs with two home runs. It's his second multi-home run performance in the last three games third in the last five games.
Spanberger now has 19 home runs on the year, tied for second in the conference and just two behind overall leader Brent Rooker from Mississippi State. Over his last eight games, all 12 of his hits have gone for extra-bases, with nine in the form of home runs.
In the Razorbacks' four games of the SEC Tournament, Spanberger has eight hits, eight runs scored, 10 RBIs, three doubles, five home runs, and 26 total bases. All of those totals except hits leads all players in this year's tournament and his five home runs is just one off the record for most over the course of a tournament in conference history.
Of the other long balls, sophomore Eric Cole and freshman Dominic Fletcher each sent one over the wall to help build Arkansas' lead. Cole's was the first of back-to-back home runs in the second inning as he launched his before Spanberger's second of the day. For Cole, he now has four on the year and has been hitting over .400 for the tournament. He has seven hits in 17 at-bats with five runs scored and three RBIs.
Fletcher's home run came in the fourth inning to bring two more runs home and push Arkansas ahead 10-0. It's his second home run in as many games, giving him 12 for the year. With one more home run, Fletcher would tie Zack Cox (13) for the Arkansas freshman home run record set back in 2009. Fletcher finished the game 3-for-4 with three runs scored and tied a season-high with four RBIs.
Cole, Spanberger, and Fletcher weren't the only Razorback hitter with a three-hit day. Sophomore Jax Biggers turned in his third multi-hit game of the tournament after going 3-for-4 with three RBI. It's his second-straight three-hit game and gives him nine hits for the tournament, leading all players.
"First off, great job by Kacey (Murphy) and the rest of our defense. We kept it going, and I think he threw 35 pitches the first inning. We knew how hard it is to recover from that, so we were all thinking that he wasn't going to stay in the game for very long. Despite what we thought, Kacey (Murphy) did a great job of staying and helping us get back in the dugout. He helped us keep the momentum on our side and let the offense take over. It's one of those games as a coach that you hope for but you don't expect." - Head coach Dave Van Horn on Kacey Murphy's performance
"It feels like I am on cloud nine. Lately, I have gone up there and I have seen every pitch. When I am up there, I try to get every pitch I can and at least get swings on them. I just have to go up there and have confidence and trust my approach." - Chad Spanberger on his continued offensive performance at the plate
"We are really excited to get another shot at them (LSU) after what happened to us at home against them. We are really excited to be in the championship and get a shot at them again." - Dominic Fletcher on facing LSU in the championship game
- Chad Spanberger's five home runs in the tournament this week is second-most in SEC Tournament history, just one behind Mike Templeton of Ole Miss, who hit six home runs in four games in 1977.
- Spanberger's last 12 hits going back to game three of the Vanderbilt series (May 14) have been for extra-bases with nine as home runs.
- Spanberger now has 19 home runs on the year, good for a tie for second in the SEC and the most by a Razorback since Andrew Benintendi hit 20 in the 2015 season.
- The 16 runs scored in Saturday's win over Florida is the most by Arkansas in a game in its tournament history.
- The 16-run win over the Gators is the third-largest victory in SEC Tournament history.
- The nine home runs by Arkansas in this year's SEC Tournament is most by any Arkansas team in tournament history and its five more than its previous high of four set back in 2007.
- Arkansas will be playing in its fourth SEC Tournament final in program history and the first since 2007 (1998 - Auburn, 1999 - Alabama, 2007 - Vanderbilt).
- With his second home run of the week, freshman Dominic Fletcher has totaled 12 home runs this season, just one off the Arkansas freshman record (Zack Cox - 13 in 2009)
- After going 3-for-4 in Saturday's win, shortstop Jax Biggers now has nine hits in the tournament, including three triples, to lead all players. His triple total for the week is also an SEC Tournament record.
- Arkansas' two run-rule victories over Auburn (May 25), Florida (May 27) are its only run-rule victories in its tournament history.