Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn thought the three-game set against Vanderbilt would be "low scoring" and full of "pitcher's duels." Bingo, as the Razorbacks allowed only three earned runs on the weekend with a 3-1 victory Sunday to take the series at Baum Stadium.
It shouldn't surprise that there was not a sweep. Arkansas and Vandy have the two longest streaks in the SEC of not allowing a sweep. The Commodores are now up to 25 straight league weekends of winning at least one game, the Hogs now at 23.
That's what happens when there's quality arms throughout the staff. The Hogs had the better staff this time as Chris Oliver, Zach Jackson and Michael Gunn rolled through one of the league's best batting orders with precision on Sunday.
Arkansas pitching allowed only three earned runs on the weekend. The Hogs won, 6-2, on Friday night, with both runs scoring on a low throw to first. The rest of the Vandy runs in the three games scored on two home runs.
The Hogs staked Oliver to a 3-0 lead through the sixth. There was a solo homer in the seventh and five Commodore runners stranded in the seventh and eighth to make it interesting. Gunn worked a one-two-three ninth to end the suspense.
The Hogs scored on a based loaded walk to Eric Fisher in the first, then scored twice in the fifth. There was a passed ball before Brian Anderson, beaned in the first, ripped an RBI single to center.
"It's what I thought it would be," Van Horn said. "I thought it would be pitcher's duels. It was nerve wracking for us to leave the bases loaded in the first. We rode that one run until we punched in two in the fifth.
"We had just enough pitching all weekend. I thought coming in that it would be a weekend of low scoring games and it was."
Oliver (5-3) had only two strikeouts, but he didn't walk any Commodores. He scattered six hits, with the lone tally an opposite field homer to left by Bryan Reynolds in the seventh.
Reynolds came back to the plate with the bases loaded in the eighth. Van Horn decided to turn the switch hitter Reynolds around with the lefty Gunn, lifting Jackson.
"He was batting 50 points higher lefthanded," Van Horn said. "Batting righthanded, we'd struck him out three times. To get the lefty, to me, was the way to go. It worked out."
Well, eventually it did. Gunn walked Reynolds, then walked Vince Conde. He got the last out when first baseman Fisher made a running, over-the-shoulder catch in foul ground near the tarp down the line.
There was good defense in the sixth, too. Ro Coleman singled off Oliver's leg, Dansby Swanson singled thru the middle for a one-out scare. But shortstop Michael Bernal went in the hole to his right to turn a tight double play with Anderson handling the pivot at second.
"That was an impressive double play," Van Horn said. "Bernal got it away quick and I don't think it even stopped at second Anderson changed directions so quickly."
Anderson said, "That was big for us. Our pitchers have been getting us ground balls and we are turning them. Michael made a good play and handled it so clean and gave me a perfect feed."
Oliver, who gave a demonstrative fist pump on the play, praised the defense.
"If I get excited, I'm going to give a fist pump," Oliver said.
Catcher Jake Wise said, "It's every inning."
Oliver said, "Our defense has been huge on Sundays. My strikeouts have not been high, so I've been relying on the defense."
The bullpen has been solid, but Van Horn said it's a case of not needing much.
"Our starting pitching has gone pretty deep so we are getting by with three or four for the weekend in the bullpen," he said, noting it was Jackson and Gunn on Friday night, too.
Jackson threw just 18 pitches Friday night, Gunn only 12.
"They were available yesterday and we didn't use them," Van Horn said. "So we were good to go with them today."
It leaves the Hogs at 25-16 overall and 9-9 in the SEC with another home series this week against Auburn. Vandy, which won the league last year at 26-3, leaves town at 29-12, 8-10.
"They could easily be 10-8 leaving here," Van Horn said. "With that pitching and that lineup, they are very good.
"What you have to do is keep grinding them out and stay in position. This league will give you a bad day. But we've held strong together. We've got 15 (counting midweek games) left and we are going to try to win all of them."
The Hogs and Commodores played solid defense all weekend. Vanderbilt made just one error on the weekend and the Hogs didn't have an error after the third inning Friday night.
The Hogs have two midweek games this week. They play host to Northwestern, La., at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday, then again at 3:05 p.m. Wednesday. Van Horn got his first Division I job as head coach at Northwestern. They are coached by two former Van Horn assistants, Lane Burroughs and Chris Curry.
Northwestern is 22-17, 10-8 for a fourth-place tie in the Southland Conference. The Deamons finished last a year ago. They were swept by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in a three-game series this weekend.
Hogs Win Series, 3-1
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