The wind may have cost the No. 25 Razorbacks a few hits so far this season, but it certainly aided them in the eighth inning of their win Saturday at Baum Stadium.
Michael Bernal's two-out fly ball turned into a wind-blown triple just inside the right field line that scored the go-ahead run and then All-American Brian Anderson ended any doubt with a three-run homer as No. 25 Arkansas downed Eastern Illinois 8-3.
Bernal had three hits and the redshirt sophomore transfer third baseman also reached base when he was hit by a pitch on a day when the head coach Dave Van Horn's Razorbacks (5-0) scored five runs with two outs in the bottom of the eighth to stay unbeaten.
"You can't plan for stuff like that," Bernal said. "But, the whole day the wind's been blowing. Playing at this stadium, you know that wind's going to blow. Coach said it himself, he said sometimes it hurts us and sometimes it helps us. I guess that time it helped us.
...The whole at-bat, pretty much the whole game I could see the whole outfield was playing far, far to the left," Bernal said. "They were shading to the left. Partially because of the wind. Maybe they just thought we hit to that side of the field. With that being said, anything hit to that side of the field was going to be hard for them to get to. On top of that, there was two outs, so we're running."
Arkansas, which outhit its foe 10-7, had led 3-0 going into the top of the eighth inning before Eastern Illinois tied it with three runs in a half inning against Razorback relievers Colin Poche and Jackso Lowery.
Jake Wise fought off a two-strike count to single and then plated the go-ahead run when Bernal's hit got down.
"He did a great job," Van Horn said of Bernal. "He had two line drives up the middle, got hit by a pitch and the ball he probably hit the worse ends up being a triple. That was huge for us. He made a couple of nice plays in the field. He made a play to his left that (first baseman) Fisher made a tremendous pick over there for him. He had a great game."
Van Horn was not about to apologize for his team benefitting from a wind-aided hit.
"That wind has killed many a swing," Van Horn said. "Ask Fisher. He would probably have three or four home runs for us if not for that wind over the first five games. So it was good to see the wind kind of help us right there. It got up there with some backspin on it and once it stopped he thought he had it under control.
"We were screaming from the dugout that we thought he was really going to struggle with it and that he was going to end up having to dive for it," Van Horn added. "Sure enough that thing just got blown back 30 feet. Obviously that was big for us.
"But we started that inning with two out," Van Horn continued. "Jake got a base-hit in the hole. We get the triple and It just kind of snow-balled on them. We got a couple of pretty good at bats, got hit by a pitch an walk and got Brian to the plate and he saw a fast ball and he got all of it."
Anderson then ended any doubt by riding a fast ball out of the park for his third hit of the day.
"I got a first pitch slider, low and away for a ball," Anderson said. "I saw it pretty well. I was talking to the coach about making adjustments, maybe backing off the plate a little bit. I was able to see the ball well and put a good swing on it."
The late outburst made a winner out of reliever Michael Gunn (1-0), who retired all four batters that he faced on just ninth pitches.
He was the fourth pitcher on the day for Arkansas, who got six scoreless innings from starter Chris Oliver.
"He (Oliver) gave up a leadoff single in the top of the third and they didn't score so he worked out of a few jams," Van Horn said. "He had pretty good stuff. Obviously his philosophy is good. He threw a couple of really good breaking balls. But it was good. Good to see him pitch (well).
"We have gone the last couple of weekends where the first couple of guys out have given is a lot of quality innings and got us into the middle of those ballgames," Van Horn added."
Arkansas had opened the scoring in the fifth against Eastern Illinois starter Mat Borens on Andrew Benintendi's run-scoring groundout and Joe Serrano's RBI single.
The three-game series will continue on Sunday at 1:05 with the Razorbacks looking for the sweep.
Freshman right hander Alex Phillips will get the start for Arkansas.
Arkansas 8, Eastern Illinois 3
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