Athens, GA (UofA) – The fifth-ranked Razorback baseball team had the tying run on third base in the ninth inning with one out Saturday afternoon against 13th-ranked Georgia. However, a fly ball by Dominic Fletcher to left field was not deep enough as Heston Kjerstad was thrown out at home trying to score on the sacrifice attempt, ending the game and giving the Bulldogs a 3-2 victory in the 2018 regular-season finale.
Arkansas (37-17, 18-12 SEC) took the lead on two separate occasions in the game with both runs being driven in by junior catcher Grant Koch in the second and fourth innings. Unfortunately, the Hog bats went silent over the final four and a half innings, getting only four baserunners, two coming in the ninth inning.
The defeat is the Razorbacks fifth series loss of the conference season and fourth of their last five games decided by two runs or less. However, Thursday’s win over Georgia solidified their top-four seeding going into the 2018 SEC Tournament next week in Hoover, Alabama, earning them a bye straight into the double-elimination portion of the tournament.
Even with the series loss, Arkansas is also guaranteed at least a share of the SEC Western Division title, depending on the final score of the Ole Miss-Alabama game, which is still in progress. The division title will be the first for Arkansas since 2011 and fifth in school history. Four of those division titles have come under head coach Dave Van Horn.
The first two games of Arkansas’ series with Georgia were slugfests as both teams combined for 31 runs. Saturday’s finale did not follow suit as the pitching staffs for both teams kept hits and walks to a minimum.
Georgia starter Kevin Smith held the Hogs to two runs over seven innings, while striking out 11. Arkansas was not able to go with its usual game three starter in Isaiah Campbell, but still got a strong 4.2 inning outing from freshman Kole Ramage, his longest of the season. Ramage scattered six hits and gave up just two earned runs, while walking one and tying a season high with five strikeouts.
Campbell come into the game in relief in at the start of the sixth inning and looked sharp for three innings, giving up just one hit and striking out three. Campbell was questionable going into the game, suffering a foot injury prior to the series, but looked healthy out of the bullpen, keeping the deficit at one for the remainder of the game.
In the sixth inning, Georgia’s Michael Curry was able to hit the go-ahead home run off Arkansas pitcher Evan Lee, one of two homers hit in the game for the Bulldogs and sixth of the series.
Offensively, Arkansas only managed six hits in the game, with Koch coming away with the only multi-hit game. It was his 13th multi-hit game and ninth multi-RBI game this season.
Casey Martin, Luke Bonfield, Carson Shaddy, and Kjerstad all had one hit as well with Kjerstad and Shaddy notching doubles. Kjerstad’s double came in lead-off fashion in the top of the ninth inning and he was able to advance to third in the next at-bat on a wild pitch, but was not able to be driven in on a game-tying base hit.
Arkansas will play its first game of the 2018 SEC Tournament on Wednesday with its opponent still to be determined as the rest of the day’s games play out as well as the single-elimination games from the first round of the tournament on Tuesday. The game will be televised on the SEC Network with a first pitch time still to be determined.