Channeling their late-game heroics from a year ago, the Razorbacks rallied three separate times to beat Northwestern State 8-7 at Baum Stadium.
Jake Wise's bases-loaded walk with two outs in the bottom of the ninth scored Brian Anderson to give Arkansas a hard-fought win. Anderson was pinch-running for Jacob Mahan, who led-off the ninth with a walk.
The Razorbacks drew four walks in the final inning.
"It was a good first test," said Arkansas shortstop Tim Carver, who finished the game 3-for-4 at the plate but committed two of Arkansas' four errors. "We hadn't been behind yet, so whenever we came out and went down four runs, it shows that we can come back.
"You never want to be in that situation, but it's kind of relieving to know you can come back."
After Northwestern State stranded the bases loaded in the top half of the inning, Arkansas (4-0) scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth and took a 7-6 lead on Carver's RBI single. Jimmy Bosco and Jacob Morris also plated runs in the inning with a pair of hits.
But Northwestern State showed plenty of grit by fighting back to tie the game in the top of the ninth. Nick Hinojos' two-out RBI single dropped in front of the outstretched glove of Arkansas right fielder Sam Bates, scoring Matt Burns to tie the game.
Bates, who attempted to make a diving catch, recovered quick enough to hit first baseman Dominic Ficociello on the relay, who threw out Ryan Westbrook at home plate to end the inning.
"Northwestern State outplayed us today and I feel fortunate to win the game," said Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn, who spent three years as head coach of the Demons.
"We did a good job of hanging in there. We never really got down in the dugout and we kept talking about having a good inning."
Northwestern State used a four-run second inning to take early control of the game. Arkansas committed two errors in the inning and starting pitcher Brandon Moore allowed four hits. Moore also committed a throwing error on a pick-off play and threw a wild pitch in the frame.
"We knew it was going to be tough scoring four runs the way things were going."
Moore, one of several heralded Arkansas pitchers, was upstaged by senior all-Southland Conference left-hander Colin Bear, who shut down the Razorbacks for much of his 5 2/3 innings on the mound.
Ficociello's two-run double capped a three-run third inning for the Razorbacks. But Arkansas could do little else against Bear, who struck out six batters and sat Arkansas down in order four separate innings.
"He could really pitch," Van Horn said. "I think he just ran out of gas. He threw really well out of the wind-up and when we got him into the stretch, he wasn't near as effective, and he couldn't locate. His change-up wasn't as good out of the stretch.
"If we could get a guy on then some things started happening and he'd get wild. We got some big base-hits with two outs that got us back into the game."
The Razorbacks finally chased the southpaw in the sixth, when they loaded the bases with two outs. Wise drew the first of his two bases-loaded walks, scoring Ficociello, who singled earlier in the inning.
Northwestern State (1-1) regained the lead in the top of the seventh when second baseman Ray Frias scored on a wild pitch by Cade Lynch. Lead-off hitter Will Watson scored later in the inning on a Todd Wallace RBI single to give the Demons a 6-4 lead.
The two runs were the only blemishes on Lynch's outing. The junior left-hander pitched three innings, allowing two hits and striking out four batters. Lynch, Trent Daniel and Nolan Sanburn combined to pitch 5 2/3 innings, allowing three runs.
"When we went out to the outfield after the game I said, ‘Great job by the middle relievers to give us a chance to climb back into the game,'" Van Horn said. "Daniel didn't have his best stuff, but Lynch had good stuff and I just think he ran out of gas a little bit there."
The Demons turned the game over to left-handed closer Mason Melotakis – the top-rated Southland Conference draft prospect – in the seventh inning, but Arkansas continually got on base, stranding two runners in the seventh inning before the rally in the eighth.
"He was throwing a lot of fastballs early on," Morris said. "We got behind in the count and he kept coming with fastballs. Coach (Todd) Butler talks about staying connected on guys who have velocity and I just flipped it into left field.
"I faced him in high school. He was the pitcher that knocked us out of the playoffs my senior year. I've seen him before and it was good to get revenge."
Sanburn, who blew his fifth career save by allowing the run in the top of the ninth, picked up the win for Arkansas.
The two teams will play in the second of the two-game midweek series on Wednesday at 3:05 p.m. Freshman right-hander Greg Milhorn will start for the Razorbacks, while sophomore left-hander Andrew Adams will start for the Demons on the mound.