Razorbacks rally with 6-run inning

Posted: May 18, 2018 at 2:12 a.m.

Arkansas senior designated hitter Luke Bonfield, right, is congratulated by Arkansas hitting coach Nate Thompson after Bonfield hit a home run during a game against Georgia on Thursday, May 17, 2018, in Athens, Ga.

ATHENS, Ga. — No. 6 Arkansas overcame its road woes for a night, scoring six runs in the top of the seventh inning Thursday to record an 8-6 victory over No. 13 Georgia.

The Razorbacks (37-15, 18-10 SEC) moved a step closer to clinching the SEC West title and earning a national seed in the NCAA Baseball Tournament.

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville took an early 2-0 lead only to see the Bulldogs (35-17, 16-12) scratch out four runs in their first four times at bat, highlighted by home runs from Cam Shepherd in the bottom of the second inning and Adam Sasser two innings later.

The Razorbacks were down 4-2 before breaking the game open in the seventh inning, sending 10 batters to the plate and scoring 6 runs on 5 hits, highlighted by Luke Bonfield’s eighth home run of the season.

“We feel fortunate that our guys hung in there down two and not really doing a whole lot right,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “And we put together a big inning. We got some big hits, and a big two-out hit and a wild pitch and doubled that lead up, and then we had to hang on.

Georgia Coach Scott Stricklin had just one inning to lament.

“Well, certainly giving up a six spot really cramps what you’re trying to do,” he said. “It’s disappointing we didn’t play our best game today. A lot of that has to do with Arkansas.”

Arkansas has now hit at least one home run in nine of its past 10 games and is 30-10 on the season when hitting a home run.

Arkansas kicked off the seventh with four consecutive hits, including a triple by Dominic Fletcher, who later scored on a wild pitch. Carson Shaddy drew a walk and later scored on a passed ball. Casey Martin, who led off the inning with a single, Heston Kjerstad, who had a single, and Jack Kenley, who walked, also scored during the inning.

“It was a big-time seventh inning,” said Bonfield, who had 1 hit, 2 runs, 2 RBI and a walk Thursday. “With our offense, we’re a really complete team and we know we’re never out of a game and can string together some hits – one big hit after another. And that’s what you saw tonight.”

With Jake Reindl coming on in relief of starter Blaine Knight and down 8-4, Georgia responded with one run in the bottom of the seventh, as Aaron Schunk led off with a single and moved to second on Keegan McGovern’s single.

After Michael Curry struck out Matt Cronin came in to face Sasser, who singled to left field to score Schunk. Cronin then coaxed an infield out from Shepherd and fanned L.J. Talley to end the inning.

Knight (9-0) is still without a loss this season, pitching 6 innings with 6 hits, 4 runs (2 earned), 1 walk, 2 hit batters and 5 strikeouts.

“Blaine would be the first to tell you it wasn’t his best stuff, and he left some stuff up and missed on a couple of fastballs they hit out of the park,” Van Horn said. “But he’s such a good competitor that even when he doesn’t have his best stuff he still gives us innings and gives us a chance.”

Van Horn said Knight might have had better numbers with better support in the field. The Razorbacks committed three errors, two by Martin at third base.

“He probably threw 30 pitches he didn’t have to throw because we didn’t field the baseball, and he gave up two earned runs,” Van Horn said. “He threw too many pitches in the first [inning] because we don’t field a routine groundball to first and then don’t field a groundball to third with two outs, and they get a hit and they score a run. He was frustrated … but he found a way to keep it close.”

Cronin pitched 2⅔ innings, giving up 3 hits, 1 earned run and 3 strikeouts to collect his 10th save of the season.

The Razorbacks — who are now 6-11 on the road this spring — maintained a one-game lead over Ole Miss in the SEC West standings. The Rebels (41-13, 17-11) defeated Alabama 3-2 Thursday night in Tuscaloosa and would top Arkansas in a tiebreaker based on a series victory over the Hogs.

Martin led the Razorbacks with four hits and two runs scored.

The two teams will meet again today at 2 p.m. with Arkansas set to send left-hander Kacey Murphy (6-4, 2.30 ERA) to the mound while Georgia will counter with right-hander Emerson Hancock (6-4, 4.82 ERA).

Sports on 05/18/2018