Arkansas didn't get its seventh straight series victory, mainly because rain prevented a third game. The Razorbacks whipped Tennessee, 5-2, in a seven inning game Sunday in the series finale at Baum Stadium.
The rains that postponed Saturday night's game returned just before the scheduled start of what was planned to be a doubleheader at 10 a.m. Sunday. They didn't let up until it was too late to play two. They began at 1:30 p.m. With a 3:50 p.m. Travel curfew for the Volunteers, there was only time for one game.
Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn was worried that they wouldn't play at all on Sunday. There was a lightning strike close by just before the first pitch.
"I guess it didn't register on our device," Van Horn said. "There was another that was 10 miles away and if it's within eight, you have to wait another 30 minutes. At that point, if it had registered, I doubt they would have even started a game. So we were very lucky to get this one in.
"It was big for us. I was proud of the way our guys bounced back after the delay and after losing Friday night. It was huge for us to get our 30th win and out 15th in conference play."
Arkansas (30-19, 15-11) had won a school record six straight SEC series since starting the year with a 1-5 league slate. Tennessee (20-25, 8-18) won the series opener, 5-4, on Friday night.
Keaton McKinney (5-1) pitched into the fifth inning, allowing two runs on three hits. He had not allowed an earned run in 15 1/3 innings before giving up a solo homer to Andrew Lee in the second inning. Dominic Taccolini got the final eight outs for the save.
"McKinney didn't have his best stuff," Van Horn said. "They were on him. And, we knew we had Dominic. It was big for Dominic to come in throwing the way he did. He comes in pitching frm the stretch after pitching as a starter all year. But he pitched as a reliever last year and he did great. We may need him to do it again."
Andrew Benintendi led the Hogs with three hits, two runs and one RBI. He raised his SEC leading average to .405. He drove in the lead run in the bottom of the second on a bases loaded check swing tapper to third. In the fifth, Benintendi doubled and scored on Brett McAfee's single. Rick Nomura slammed a solo homer in the sixth.
Benintendi said he's not thinking about being in the chase for the SEC triple crown. He leads in batting average and home runs and is close in RBI.
"I don't look at that," he said. "I'm just trying to hit the ball hard."
Van Horn said it's just a matter of Beintendi battling in every at bat.
"He hit it hard in his first at bat, and had fouled off a couple of pitches in that next one and then got the hit on a check swing," Van Horn said. "He's just stayed hot for an entire month."
Serrano said it was good break, something Benintendi hasn't needed in his hot streak.
"We had been joking around that he hadn't gotten any cheap hits," Serrano said. "We call those Spoon hits. He got his first Spoon hit."
Benintendi said, "He fooled me and I was fortunate."
Van Horn said it was a long day with an early wakeup call.
"We had a team breakfast at 7 a.m.," he said. "It ended up being a good day."
Most of Van Horn's moves paid dividends. He was subbed McAfee as the designated hitter after Chad Spanberger struckout with the bases loaded in the first.
"I had Brett in my original starting lineup Saturday night as DH," Van Horn said. "But with a doubleheader, I was going to rest him for one of them. I was kicking myself after Spanberger's out. But, that righthander had been real tough on righthanders and so that was my reasoning."
Arkansas travels Omaha, Neb., to Creighton for a single game Tuesday night before finishing the regular season at Georgia with the first game on Thursday night.
Van Horn said the game in Omaha is not about playing in Ameritrade Park, site of the College World Series.
"It's about playing a game so Creighton will come back here next year," he said. "It would be fine if we played somewhere beside that park. Our guys know they have to earn their way there and we've talked about that."
Arkansas 5, Tennessee 2
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