FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas made all of the plays in a 5-0 victory Friday on the opening day of the college baseball season. Delaware State didn't. But none were as big as the head-long diving catch James McCann produced in the top of the sixth.
McCann, junior team captain, came out of his stance behind the plate to charge down the line to grab a soft pop on a sacrifice bunt attempt. It came after relief pitcher Cade Lynch walked his first batter on four pitches with the Hogs.
"That was their three-hole hitter trying to bunt and McCann got it," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "That kind of fired us up."
It brought the Baum Stadium opening day record crowd of 7,521 to their feet and it steadied Lynch, the sophomore transfer from Jonesboro. Lynch made quick work of the Hornets in the sixth and the Hogs plated three runs in the bottom of the inning and coasted from there.
"I thought we played pretty well," Van Horn said. "I thought we pitched very well."
"I let him go about 10 pitches longer than I intended," Van Horn said of Lynch. "But he was one strike away and we didn't have anyone up. And the next thing you know, they have two on. But he got the final guy. He pitched well.
"I thought DJ located his fast ball and pitched very well."
Except for the opening pitch of the season.Troy Drummond was ready when Baxendale put one down the middle to start the game. His laser almost took Baxendale's head off as it shot into center for a single.
"I guess I didn't think he'd be swinging on the first one of the season," Baxendale said. "He hit it pretty good."
A well-placed bunt went for a hit on the next batter, but Baxendale pitched out of it.
"I think a younger pitcher might not have worked through that as well as DJ did," Van Horn said. "He settled down pretty good in that first inning."
McCann said both pitchers were hitting spots.
"I thought they both located," McCann said. "I didn't think either one of them looked nervous.
"I was glad to get that bunt in the air. I didn't know if I was going to get there. You have to make that play. You don't, maybe they get some life and get some momentum. I think maybe it gave us some momentum as it was. It was still a 1-0 game so anything could have happened. But it didn't take Cade long to get them out after that play."
The Hogs plated five runs on eight hits. Bo Bigham and Kyle Robinson both had two hits. Robinson and Collin Kuhn had the only RBIs of the game as the Hornets made some mistakes. There was a bases loaded walk, a wild pitch for a run and an error in the outfield to allow the Hogs an extra base and a run.
"We were probably one hit away from a big inning a couple of times," Van Horn said. "We had some strikeouts that were probably nerves. And we hit some liners right at them.
"It was a good one for opening day. What a crowd. It was great for our young guys to play in front of such a big crowd right off the bat."
James McCann closes in on a popup bunt in the sixth inning.
Part of a record crowd cheers the Hogs.
Cade Lynch fires a pitch against Delaware State.
Photos by Marc F. Henning