FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The sixth-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks got another strong outing from their starting pitcher Saturday afternoon as junior lefty Kacey Murphy twirled 7.1 scoreless innings on 108 pitches to help the Hogs to a 3-1 victory over No. 20 Texas A&M.
The win is Arkansas’ (35-15, 16-10 SEC) ninth in a row at home and 14th of the year by two runs or less. Saturday’s win also clinches the series over the Aggies (34-16, 12-14 SEC) and guarantees that Arkansas will finish the 2018 regular-season undefeated in series played at Baum Stadium.
The Razorbacks are now 29-3 in home games this year, including one game played at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock, Arkansas. 28 of those wins, however, have come at Baum Stadium and puts this year’s team just three away from tying the record for most wins at Baum Stadium in a single season.
Senior Carson Shaddy had another strong day at the plate, going 2-for-4 and accounting for driving in all three Razorback runs. The big hit came in the seventh inning when Shaddy drove in two on a wind-aided double in right field. Today was Shaddy’s sixth game of the season with three or more RBI, and his 13th multi-hit game of the year.
Eric Cole and Heston Kjerstad also turned in multi-hit performances with two hits apiece. Both Cole and Kjerstad contributed a double in the game. Kjerstad is tied for the team lead with 13 doubles, while Cole is right behind with 12 on the year.
For the second day in a row, the Arkansas starting pitcher handcuffed the Texas A&M offense as Murphy went a career-long 7.1 innings, scattering just four hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
It’s the sixth start in a row that Murphy has worked five or more innings and his fifth in his last six with five or more strikeouts.
Junior Barrett Loseke finished off the game’s final 1.2 innings to pick up his third save of the year. He wasn’t able to preserve the shutout as Texas A&M got a sacrifice fly in the ninth to cut the lead the two. However, Loseke did strike out the final batter with two runners on, giving him 22 strikeouts in his last six outings.
Arkansas’ defense wasn’t completely flawless on Saturday, but it did come up with some key plays that kept the game in its favor.
In the first inning, Texas A&M was already threatening as Murphy loaded the bases on a one-out single, a walk, and a hit by pitch. Fortunately, the next batter, Chris Andritsos, grounded a ball to third base where Casey Martin picked it out of the dirt and got the force out at home. Grant Koch made a good scoop on the play as well to keep the run off the board and allow the Hogs to get out of the inning unscathed.
“The defensive play of the game was Grant Koch picking that ball backhanded with a catcher’s glove. With a fielders glove it’s a little different, with a catcher’s glove that ball has to go right in the middle that thing and stick. That’s just a tremendous play. If that ball gets by him they get one in, maybe two in, they’re rolling.” – Head Coach Dave Van Horn on Grant Koch’s great defensive play in the first inning
“He comes across as that crafty, left-handed veteran. At our level, he’s that guy. There’s some of those guys at the big-league level. They look the same. They just pitch. They get you to get yourself out. That’s what they do. He’s crafty and the ball moves away from the right handers. He can throw the breaking ball away from the lefties. He can throw a changeup. He really mixes, gets them guessing a little bit and it gets him through tough situations.” – Head Coach Dave Van Horn on Kacey Murphy
“We haven’t played great on the road, and if you don’t play great on the road you better play great at home if you want to have a great season. Hats off to the team. Sometimes we get after the team, we’ve come back and won, had a little bit of everything. Baum Stadium has been really good to us. The fans have been awesome.” – Head Coach Dave Van Horn on the Razorbacks’ home success
“It seems like every time he goes, not only does he get us deep into a game, we know he’s going to give us all he’s got. He always limits the damage. I think that keeps him in the game for a long time, keeps his pitch count down which allows him to go deeps in games for us which is huge. Allows us to win in series even though it’s only Saturday.” – Grant Koch in Kacey Murphy’s dominant performance
“The wind was tough today. Right when I saw him take off towards me, I was rounding first and was just thinking there’s a chance he misses that and took off to second. It was a fastball, he was one of the better pitchers I’ve seen.” – Carson Shaddy on his two-RBI double
Arkansas and Texas A&M will finish the three-game series on Sunday with first pitch at Noon at Baum Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN2 and it will be the final home game of the 2018 regular season.