FAYETTEVILLE - Matt Reynolds had a "flash back" from last week's ninth-inning out at the plate at Auburn. Fortunately, Reynolds was THE flash this time.
Reynolds scored from second base on James McCann's two-run infield single as Cade Lynch and DJ Baxendale out pitched Vanderbilt's Sonny Gray, perhaps the SEC's best hurler. It proved the difference as Arkansas evened its SEC record with a 2-1 victory before 7,313 at Baum Stadium on Friday night.
No. 13 Arkansas (18-4, 2-2) will play host to No. 2 Vandy (20-3, 2-2) at 2:05 p.m. New Arkansas basketball coach Mike Anderson is scheduled to throw out the first pitch.
Gray entered with a 5-0 record and a 1.34 ERA. The Hogs left the bases loaded in the first, then didn't get many other chances against the hard throwing righthander.
The Commodores got their only run in the fifth on a wild pitch that McCann, the standout UA catcher, could still see in slow motion afterwards.
McCann, hitless with two strikeouts in his first three at bats, stayed off two curves out of the zone before getting one to his liking. He fought off the breaker with a grounder that shortstop Anthony Gomez gloved as he went to the ground. Bigham raced home and Reynolds never stopped as Dave Van Horn, taking the third base coaching slot for the first time this season, waved him home.
"I thought it was through and I was going to score easy," Reynolds said. "Then, I saw the catcher preparing for a play. I had flashbacks from last week at Auburn. I just tried to run as hard as I could."
Van Horn said he never hesitated.
"I was running with him as fast as I could," Van Horn said. "I thought it was going to get through and then when he went down to field it, I just sent him. I think his throw clipped the mound and that helped a little bit. Matt did a good job of getting in.
"This was a big game for us. We lost the series last weekend and we needed to get this one on Friday night. It's huge."
McCann gave a tip of the cap to his pitchers, first.
"What we got from Cade Lynch was real big, to start off," McCann said. "I didn't get that one pitch blocked and I get that one 99.9 percent of the time. I can still see it in slow motion. The ball just bounces funny sometimes. We really didn't know what we were going to get from Cade, but he stayed right there with Sonny Gray.
"What you know going in is that Sonny is going to be tough. He's got four pitches that he can throw for strikes and it's two great breaking balls. His breakers are late and it's tough to pick them up.
"He got me out with them early and so that last at bat, I went up there sitting on them. He threw three straight and that last one he left up. I tried to just stay in the middle of the field with it. I was out over the plate looking for it."
Reynolds said the Hogs were looking fast ball early.
"I think we took his fast ball away in that first inning, so he went to the breakers and just kept shoveling them in there," Reynolds said. "I thought we were going to get to him early, but we didn't. Then, you know he's going to be tough."
Van Horn said the book on Gray is to get to him early.
"If you don't, then it's going to be tough," he said. "I think he pitches to contact early in the inning sometimes and if you get on base, then he goes after the strikeout. He did that to us. We left some guys on, but he's really difficult because of that breaking ball."
Van Horn downplayed his role coaching third.
"I just wanted to change things up, shake things up," he said. "To be honest, I wanted (hitting coach Todd Butler) in the dugout with our hitters. I knew this was a game where we were going to have to get (Gray's) patterns and make adjustments. It was going to help to have him in there with our guys as they came out to bat. (Gray) is really good."
Baxendale went back to the bullpen after starting last weekend. He was lights out for the final 2.1 innings.
"I made some changes in my delivery from last week," Baxendale said of some keys from pitching coach Dave Jorn. "My windup had gotten a little fast and that left some pitches up. He got me to slow it down and I didn't leave any pitches up tonight. That was the difference.
"I know we were up for this game. We felt the challenge. I thought Cade pitched great and our hitters scratched out a couple of runs against a great pitcher. For us to hold them to one run over nine innings is very good."