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Birthday boy steps up in win

Arkansas catcher Ryder Helfrick (27) celebrates with teammates after hitting a solo home run, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, during the fourth inning of the Razorbacks’ 15-5 win over James Madison at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville. Visit for today's photo gallery..(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)
Arkansas catcher Ryder Helfrick (27) celebrates with teammates after hitting a solo home run, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, during the fourth inning of the Razorbacks’ 15-5 win over James Madison at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville. Visit for today's photo gallery..(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)


FAYETTEVILLE -- Ryder Helfrick celebrated his 19th birthday in style Saturday, hitting a home run in his first college start and having a strong day at catcher in the University of Arkansas baseball team's 15-5 win in eight innings over James Madison at Baum-Walker Stadium.

Helfrick, the youngest of the four-man scenario at catcher for the Razorbacks, started behind the plate with Hudson White moving to designated hitter.

Batting in the five hole, the prized signee from Discovery Bay, Calif., homered off left-hander Max Kuhle with one out in the fourth inning to give Arkansas a 2-0 lead.

Helfrick wound up going 1 for 3 with three runs scored. His work behind the plate, handling pitchers Brady Tygart, Parker Coil and Koty Frank, drew the praise of Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn.

"I thought he caught great today," Van Horn said. "He blocked everything, looked great receiving, kept balls in or close to the strike zone as good as you could, in my opinion."

"The second at-bat, he just seemed like he was on it -- the fastball or that changeup or whatever he was throwing at us. He left one up and he hammered it, hit it about 105 mph.

"Basically just a high line drive that got out of here quick. So that's a good birthday: Start your first college game, hit a home run, probably going to get a good meal tonight, too, I'm guessing."

Helfrick said his birthday and his first start went really well.

"Obviously, coming here you're working on catching," he said. "That's one part of my game that I feel like has gotten a lot better since getting here. Excited about that, I caught well.

"The home run was just a good swing on a good pitch. Catching Brady you just learn from him. Learn from what he has to teach and say. You kind of let him take the control on it."

9 in a row

Nine consecutive Razorbacks reached base in the sixth inning to turn a 7-5 game into a 13-5 blowout.

Two of the batters -- Will Edmundson and Ty Wilmsmeyer -- grounded into force plays on the bases, including a 5-2 put-out at home plate, and wound up at first.

Otherwise, in order, Wehiwa Aloy walked, Ben McLaughlin singled, Ryder Helfrick was hit by a pitch, Peyton Holt singled, Jared Sprague-Lott walked, Hudson White doubled and Kendall Diggs singled to account for six runs.

Chilly start

Temperature at first pitch was 37 degrees, though the sun was out and it wasn't as windy as it was for Friday's season-opener. The temperature dipped below freezing as soon as the sun went down.

For today's 1 p.m. game, the forecast is 47 degrees at first pitch and sunny with temperatures going up into the 50s during the game.

Three singles

James Madison had a batter with three hits for the second day in a row.

Dukes left fielder Ryan Dooley had singles in each of his first three at-bats in the second, fourth and sixth innings for his team's first three hits.

Dooley, the clean-up hitter, came around to score after his hits in the fourth and sixth and finished 3 for 4 with two runs scored.

Three-hole batter Fenwick Trimble went 3 for 4 on Friday with a three-run home run, double and single.


Arkansas center fielder Ty Wilmsmeyer made the defensive play of the game by robbing Fenwick Trimble of a solo home run to end the fifth inning.

Wilmsmeyer tracked Fenwick's drive to the warning track and timed his lead-up and jump to the wall perfectly. Wilmsmeyer's glove was over the wall when he came down with the deep fly.

Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn called the catch a classic.

"It was one of the better ones that I can remember at least," Wilmsmeyer said. "I know the pitch probably wasn't where Brady wanted it to be. Pull side gap, [Will] Edmunson had great communication and let me know where I was at with the wall, able to time it up well and make a play."

Trimble gave a tip of the batting helmet to the center fielder after rounding second base and heading to the dugout.

Arkansas starter Brady Tygart was fired up by the leaping catch, which ended his season debut after 78 pitches.

Defensive gems

Arkansas infielders, particularly third baseman Jared Sprague-Lott, made one strong play after another in the early innings. Sprague-Lott, who had a sterling over-the-shoulder catch in foul ground Friday, made a strong charging scoop and throw on Mike Mancini's sacrifice bunt in the first inning.

Moments later, Sprague-Lott made an athletic catch and tag from catcher Ryder Helfrick to nail Mason Dunaway trying to steal third base with one out and big hitter Fenwick Trimble at the plate.

"He helped us out big time with the runner caught stealing trying to go to third," Tygart said. "He made a great catch and tag on it. It's a lot harder to do than it seems. I see his name in the lineup, I'm confident."

Second baseman Peyton Holt ended the first inning with a strong play to his right, a slide and a pop-up throw to retire Trimble.

In the second inning, Sprague-Lott again charged to field a sacrifice bunt, but this time first baseman Ben McLaughlin saved him with a good short-hop pick on his throw to the bag.

Homer data

Razorbacks newcomers hit another pair of solo home runs for the second consecutive day, as Ty Wilmsmeyer and Ryder Helfrick connected for long balls.

Wilmsmeyer, a Missouri transfer, had his first home run as a Razorback to put the Hogs ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the third inning with an opposite-field shot to right field that had a 100 mph exit velocity and traveled an estimated 369 feet.

The home run by Helfrick, a freshman, went 367 feet to left field with a 105 mph exit velocity.

Bases juiced

The traditional beer hats were out and about at Baum-Walker Stadium with frequency as Arkansas had eight plate appearances with the bases loaded, all in the third, fourth and fifth innings.

Kendall Diggs, who entered with 8 hits in 17 career at-bats with the bases loaded, had two such opportunities. Diggs drew a run-producing walk in the fourth inning and he bounced to first base in the fifth inning.

The Razorbacks officially went 3 for 7 with the bases loaded, with Ty Wilmsmeyer supplying two hits and Peyton Holt one.

Schmidly time

James Madison freshman Ike Schmidly got his first college at-bat in the eighth inning. The Schmidly family of Charlotte, N.C., has been well- represented at Baum-Walker Stadium.

Schmidly is a triplet and one brother, Max, is a freshman long-snapper for the Razorbacks. The third brother, Eli, is a freshman golfer at North Carolina-Charlotte. Their mom and dad, Wendy and Jason Schmidly, are in town this weekend along with older sister Henri. The Schmidlys have family members in Fort Smith and they grew up as Razorback fans.

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