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Battles’ eighth-inning HR helps Hogs salvage Sunday split

Eighth-inning HR gives Hogs split by Tom Murphy | February 28, 2022 at 2:36 a.m.
Arkansas shortstop Jalen Battles throws during a game against Louisiana-Lafayette on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, in Round Rock, Texas.

Jalen Battles knew it had been a frustrating run of games for University of Arkansas hitters when he stepped to the plate with two runners on in the eighth inning and the No. 4 Hogs facing a one-run deficit against Louisiana-Lafayette in the nightcap at the Round Rock Classic on Sunday.

Battles jumped on a 1-0 fastball from right-hander Drew Shifflet and drove it over the left-field wall for the Razorbacks' biggest hit of the young season to propel Arkansas to a 6-4 win against the Ragin' Cajuns at Dell Diamond.

"I was just really hunting for a fastball," Battles said. "I mean, he gave me fastballs everywhere. I liked it, and I made him pay for it."

Arkansas (4-2), forced to play a doubleheader because of poor field conditions on Saturday, managed a split after Stanford left-hander Quinn Mathews and a pair of relievers dominated the Razorbacks with 15 strikeouts and a two-hit gem in a 5-0 decision in the afternoon game.

"That second game was a good win for our team," Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. "You know we're not playing real good right now. It just wasn't easy today and it started early in the game against Stanford. We're just not swinging the bats very well."

Kole Ramage wriggled out of a bases-loaded jam to log his third save against the Ragin' Cajuns, ending the game on a line-drive double play snared by Battles, who flipped to Robert Moore to double a runner off second base. Moore hit an RBI double in the top of the ninth inning to give Arkansas breathing room at 6-3.

Zebulon Vermillion (1-0) picked up the win against the Ragin' Cajuns with one inning of hitless relief.

Louisiana-Lafayette (3-5) had built a 3-1 lead on Arkansas starter Jaxon Wiggins, led by center fielder Carson Roccaforte's two-run double in the third inning. The Ragin' Cajuns went 0-3 in the tourney, while Indiana went 1-2.

Louisiana-Lafayette Coach Matt Deggs, a former Van Horn assistant, said he thought the Ragin' Cajuns should have won the finale.

"We were highly competitive against two top-five teams," Deggs said. "Everybody knows they are two of the better teams in the country. We played Stanford better than anybody did in this tournament and we had Arkansas there, and we've got to find ways to finish."

The No. 5 Cardinal (6-1) swept their three games in the tournament by a combined score of 18-1, with a 13-0 shutout of Indiana preceding their win over the Hogs.

"What a day," said fifth-year Stanford Coach David Esquer, who led the Cardinal to the 2021 College World Series. "I'm just so proud of my team. Two tough, tough games against quality opponents.

"I hold no program and no coach in higher regard than Arkansas and Coach Van Horn. So to be able to win that game today against a great ball club ... they're going to be there at the end, right? You haven't seen the last of them. That's going to be a quality win for us going forward."

Mathews (1-1) struck out 10 batters and allowed just a pair of singles and four walks and only one real scoring chance for the Razorbacks, who were shut out for the first time since a 2-0 loss at Louisiana Tech last March 14.

Arkansas' only hits were Zack Gregory's two-out single in the third and a leadoff single by catcher Michael Turner in the fifth inning, and the Razorbacks got only one runner to third base against Mathews.

"The control aspect, that was overall the biggest upside for me, just being in control through six-plus innings," Mathews said. "My stuff was there when I needed it."

Arkansas missed a golden opportunity to snap the shutout in the ninth inning after loading the bases with no outs against hard-throwing freshman Braden Montgomery.

Designated hitter Chris Lanzilli's single was sandwiched by walks from Moore and Turner to load the bases for Braydon Webb.

Montgomery induced a tapper back to the mound, which he got a force of Moore at home plate, then he struck out Brady Slavens and retired Battles on a liner to center to complete the shutout.

Arkansas freshman Hagen Smith (1-1) did not pitch with the same command he showed in his Arkansas debut, when he started 19 of 21 batters with a strike through six innings.

He allowed 3 runs, all earned, on 6 hits and 2 walks, with 3 strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings.

Mathews kept the Razorbacks off balance through 6 innings with a fastball in the low 90s and effective breaking pitches. He threw first-pitch strikes to 12 consecutive batters between the second and fifth innings.

"He never threw the ball in the middle of the plate," Van Horn said. "It was like fastball's away, change-ups away, bust you in with the heater. He just really pitched."

The Razorbacks had just one solid chance to push across runs against Mathews, but could not break through after loading the bases in the fifth inning.

Turner led off the inning with a single to right center and Webb drew a walk behind him. Slavens struck out on a check swing, then Battles fanned before Gregory walked to load the bases.

Freshman Peyton Stovall could not lay off high heat on a 2-2 pitch and struck out to end the threat.

Mathews made it through the sixth and started the seventh, but his day was done after 105 pitches when he walked Webb to open the frame.

Right-hander Tommy O'Rourke came on to strike out Slavens and Battles and the Cardinal caught Webb wandering off first base and tagged him in a rundown to end the seventh.

Stanford opened the scoring with a two-run second inning. After Smith struck out catcher Kody Huff looking, first baseman Carter Graham reached on a single. Barrera followed with a two-run home run to give the Cardinal an early lead.

Print Headline: Battles at the end


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