Arkansas tasted the bitter end of two walk-off losses to Vanderbilt. The Razorbacks produced a series of big plays in the ninth inning for a sweet taste in a 4-3 victory over Southeast Missouri to snap a six-game losing streak Tuesday night.
The Razorbacks (10-8) rallied from a 3-1 deficit with two runs in the seventh on Andrew Benintendi's bloop double near the line in left field. Freshman Chad Spanberger, who had an RBI double in the first, got the game winner with an RBI ground single to right to plate senior Joe Serrano.
Spanberger was chased into right field by teammates for a water bottle dousing. There were other heroes, most notably closer Jacob Stone and outfielder Joe Serrano, a pair of struggling seniors, along with catcher Alex Gosser.
Stone, last year's closer, entered with a 5.19 ERA and an 0-2 record in six appearances. He got the final three outs, entering in the ninth with two runners on base. Serrano was last among regulars with a .223 average, but was on base three times against SEMO (9-9).
Reliever Josh Alberius gave up a single and a walk before Stone was summoned from the struggling UA bullpen. After a sacrifice bunt moved up both runners, Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said pitching coach Dave Jorn sensed that the visitors "had a play on." Bingo, the Hogs thwarted it with Stone and Gosser executing the counter for a pickoff.
Lefty pinch-hitter Ryan Barnes missed a bunt attempt on what Van Horn called "an expand a pitch" with Gosser snapping a throw to third to catch runner Scott Mitchell straying off third. Stone got a swinging third strike on Barnes to end the inning.
"Gosser isn't scared," Van Horn said. "He made a perfect throw and Bobby Wernes got him diving back in. It was a great play. He picked him off.
"You have a lefty, you expand the pitch, throw a little outside into the right-handed box, in case they have something on. I think it was a safety squeeze and the runner came too far. He broke one step too much."
Stone looked like his old self after fighting through a sore arm to begin the year.
"Jacob had good stuff tonight," Van Horn said. "He looked like he had some velocity back. He'd been struggling. He'll admit that he was throwing his slider too much. He loves that pitch, but you have to have your fast ball, too. I think he's on his way back."
"I've not had command of my fast ball," he said. "You can't just keep throwing the slider. You have to pitch off your fast ball and I had command of that tonight. I felt a lot better. I've never had arm trouble before. It feels good now."
Serrano thanked his coach for letting him play.
"I'm glad DVH had faith in me," Serrano said. "It's great to get a hit with the way I've been slumping. He's letting me hit my way out of it.
"We've struggled offensively to execute and our pitchers have struggled to execute. It was able to get both going tonight.
"Stone came through in a big situation, Gosser came up with a really big play."
Stone said, "It definitely feels good because I've been struggling individually as well as our bullpen. I was just trying to expand the zone on the pickoff and they made a mistake."
Spanberger could have had a bigger night. He smashed two drives just short of the warning track in the biggest part of Baum Stadium, in right center. Both were slicing into the wind and held up for the center fielder for long outs.
"I hit them to the wrong part of the park," he said. "I was glad to get the hit in the ninth. It was a pitch up and in and I fought it off into the hole. It was good to get the monkey off our back.
"They got me pretty good. I am still wet."
Van Horn liked what he saw of his team.
"That's a good team," he said. "But we battled hard. We were behind. We've been behind a lot lately. But we hung in there.
"That's a big confidence boost for Spanberger, but it's bigger for our team. He hit two really hard and would have been home runs on another night, but for that wind."
The Hogs will try to finish the two-game series at 3:05 p.m. Wednesday, but rain is forecast. Van Horn said he didn't know who he'd pitch, with a nod towards a conference series with LSU set to begin Thursday night. Attendance was 2,054.
Hogs Snap Losing Streak, 4-3
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