Kjerstand’s homer lifts Hogs past Arizona 1-0

Posted: February 23, 2018 at 1 a.m.

Heston Kjerstand hit a solo home run in the fifth inning and Arkansas pitching made it stand in a 1-0 win against Arizona on Wednesday at Tony Gwynn Park in San Diego, Calif.

The Arkansas win avenged a 3-0 shutout loss to Arizona last season in Frisco, Texas, and kept the Razorbacks undefeated at 4-0.

Kjerstad, a freshman from Amarillo, Texas, broke up Randy Labaut’s no-hitter with a 400-foot blast to left center for the game’s only run.

Junior pitcher Kacey Murphy (1-0) allowed just one hit over six innings to get the victory for the Hogs. The junior from Rogers Heritage threw 73 pitches. Matt Cronin got out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh and allowed only one walk in 2 1/3 innings for his first save.

While the offenses were stymied by stellar pitching, the pitchers were aided by great defense.

Arkansas outfielder Dominic Fletcher went to the center field wall to track down a Travis Moniot drive to end the third.

Arizona wasted its best chance against Murphy in the fourth. Cal Stevenson was hit by Murphy to leadoff the frame. After a fouled third strike bunt attempt, Alfonso Rivas lined a single to right. Stevenson easily made it to third, but strayed past the bag when outfielder Eric Cole held the ball briefly, then flipped it to Carson Shaddy. Shaddy ran the ball toward Stevenson, then flipped it to Hunter Wilson who tagged Stevenson for an out.

The Hogs escaped further trouble in the inning on a fantastic play by Shaddy on a grounder behind second base. With Rivas rounding third, Shaddy fired strongly to first to nip runner Nick Quintana for the final out of the inning.

Labaut (0-1) allowed three of the four Arkansas hits, throwing 100 pitches over seven innings. He fanned seven.

Kjerstad was among five Razorbacks to go down on strikes to Labaut over the first two innings, but he was ready in his second trip.

“I’d seen him one at-bat and knew what he had,” Kjerstad said. “I was hunting for something up in the zone. That’s what it was and I put a good swing on it.”

It was the third game in for Arkansas pitching to allow two runs or fewer. The Razorbacks have not allowed a run in the last 16 innings. Kjerstad credited the pitching staff for the victory.

“They gave up only two hits,” he said. “We didn’t give them much help.”

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn praised his left fielder. Kjerstad’s homer gives the Hogs 10 for the season, by nine different players.

“He’s got some pop, obviously, and he’s got opposite-field power,” Van Horn said. “That’s something that’s hard to teach. It’s a gift. He’s a special player and a special kid. He’s been good for us since the day he got to school, so I’m excited about him and his future.”