The early season prediction of a longtime college baseball observer may be coming true. That prediction was that Alabama would have a difficult time when it faced good pitchers in the Southeastern Conference. Bama faced one of those good ones Friday in the first game of a series against Arkansas and the Tide fell by 7-1 to the No. 21 Razorbacks at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
“(Blaine Knight) is a guy that can really pitch,” said Alabama Coach Greg Goff of Arkansas’s starter. “He can mix his pitches up and competes at a high level. He was just in total command tonight. I thought we competed with him, if you watch the last few starts he’s had. We scored a run there in the first and had some good at-bats. We limited our strikeouts and hit some hard right at him, but he was in control tonight.”
Knight (4-1) certainly was in control on Friday, throwing eight innings of one-run baseball. The sophomore right-hander limited the Crimson Tide to three hits, while collecting seven strikeouts. After surrendering one run in the bottom of the first, the Razorback pitcher went on to retire 19 Alabama hitters in a row, while sitting down 22 of the final 23 batters he faced.
Crimson Tide starter Jake Walters (4-3) was chased after 4 1/3 innings, handing the ball over to freshman Deacon Medders, who notched a career-high in relief innings with 3 2/3, allowing one unearned run. The freshman right-hander also totaled a career-high four strikeouts.
The duo of Cobie Vance and Tanner DeVinny each collected a double in the game, with Vance adding one run scored. Hunter Alexander finished his night 1-for-4 with an RBI.
Alabama fell to 12-14 overall and 1-6 in SEC games. Arkansas improved to 21-5 overall, 6-1 in the conference.
The teams meet for game two at 7 p.m. Saturday. SEC Network will televise the game. The Crimson Tide will start sophomore left-hander Dylan Duarte and the Razorbacks will counter with junior righty Trevor Stephan.
Alabama struck first, plating one run in the bottom of the first. Vance led off the game with a double down the left field line before advancing to third on a deep fly ball from Chandler Avant. Two outs later, Alexander lined a single to left to make it 1-0, and end Bama scoring.
Arkansas scored five runs over the third, fourth, and fifth innings to put it away. The Razorbacks used a leadoff single in the third followed by a Luke Bonfield home run to take the lead for good.
While Alabama was totaling three hits, Bonfield, leadoff man Jake Arledge, and Jared Gates had three hits each for the Razorbacks, who banged out 17.
In the fourth, the first two Arkansas batters reached on a hit-by-pitch and a walk. A sacrifice bunt advanced both runners into scoring position, before a passed ball allowed the man from third to score. A single in the next at-bat scored the inning’s second tally to increase the Razorback lead to 4-1. With one down in the fifth, four consecutive singles made it 5-1.
The Razorbacks added one run in both the eighth and ninth to extend the advantage to 7-1. After the Arkansas leadoff man reached on a catcher’s interference, a one-out single placed runners on first and third. Another single in the following at-bat crossed one to push the lead to 6-1. With one down in the ninth, a pair of singles combined with an error put runners in scoring position. One batter later, a groundout crossed the game’s final run.