Eastern Illinois Knocks Off Arkansas, 10-8, in 12 innings

Eastern Illinois won its first game of the season, taking advantage of six Arkansas errors in a 10-8 victory in 12 innings. Jake Arledge homered twice for the Hogs. Pinch hitter Chad Spanberger forced extra innings with his first career homer in the ninth.

There was a mention in Friday's post-game about a six-game stretch without an error for the Arkansas baseball team. If you believe in the jinx, maybe there is validation in Eastern Illinois' 10-8 victory over Arkansas on Saturday.

The No. 12 Razorbacks (9-2) made six errors in the 12-inning game, negating 13 walks issued by EIU pitching. They had made only three errors on the season and were leading the SEC with a sterling .992 fielding percentage.

But maybe it was just a case of the odds of baseball catching up with the Hogs. EIU was due, especially cleanup batter Jason Scholl. Hitting just .179, Scholl blasted a home run off Zach Jackson, the SEC's top closer last year, to lead off the 12th.

The Panthers (1-9) got their first win in 10 games this season, stunning a Baum Stadium paid crowd of 10,422. They entered the game hitting just .217 as a team, rated No. 259 in team batting average among Division I teams. Scholl's homer was their second of the year.

The Hogs battled back from an 8-3 deficit in the fourth inning. They forced extra innings when pinch hitter Chad Spanberger hit a solo homer in the ninth inning. Jake Arledge hit two homers and drove in three.

The Hogs hit into double plays in the eighth and 10th innings. There was a series of line drive outs in the late innings that bailed out the EIU pitching that struggled to find the plate.

"It was not a real pretty game," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "We kicked it around. We had runners all over the bases and were a little unlucky with the line drive outs, maybe four times. That's the way baseball works at times.

"When you get 13 walks, rarely do you lose. We walked 13 and didn't win it."

Two of the six errors came in EIU's five-run fourth.

"Obviously, that's what cost us in the long run," Van Horn said. "Two of those were throwing errors. There was a bad hop in there, but it is really disappointing. We've played good defense the whole season, but it kinda blew up on us."

EIU coach Jason Anderson was relieved to get the season's first victory.

"It's huge for us," Anderson said. "We've been knocking on the door for three weeks, playing great baseball. Today in this game, we overcame a lot of adversity. 

"Winning a game like this, using as many guys as we did in extra innings against a team like this in this type of atmosphere with the number of young guys we've got, it's tremendous. It's what we've worked for all year."

Eastern Illinois got two runs off of Jackson in the 12th to win it. Scholl's homer came on a fast ball in the middle of the plate. The Panthers manufactured another run with two bunts, the last a suicide squeeze bunt when first baseman Clark Eagan came up just short on a dive for a soft floater.

Jackson (0-1) pitched 2.1 innings, giving up four hits and one walk. He threw 39 pitchers. He said he didn't have his best velocity on his fast ball, the pitch Scholl hammered.

"I knew I couldn't walk him and my fast ball didn't have a lot of gas," he said.

There was enough blame to go around, said the junior pitcher and the ace of the UA staff.

"We came out really sloppy," he said. "We made errors and our pitching wasn't great. Maybe it's a wake-up call. We were going through the motions."

Van Horn said the scouting report on Eastern Illinois was to expect a competitive team. He said opposing coaches told him the Panthers were better than their record.

"We like the way their hitters swing the bat and the way their pitchers compete," he said. "They have battled, just it hasn't fallen for them. We talked to other coaches and they said, 'Watch out.' We are their first victims. Tomorrow is a gut check mentally."

The Hogs used eight pitchers, as did the Panthers. EIU gambled at the end and went with its scheduled Sunday starter, Brenden Allen, to get the save. Cole Berry, who has faced just four batters on the season, will now start.

Keaton McKinney will start for the Hogs. He's struggled in his first two outings. His 13.50 ERA is last on the team.

"We are hoping he has a good day," Van Horn said. "If not, it could be a long day."

That was a reference to the depth in the bullpen. The Hogs used eight pitchers on Saturday.

"We've got McKinney and four other guys who didn't pitch today," he said. "The guys who pitched today are probably all out for tomorrow."

Arledge was one of the bright spots. He made a bid to win it in the bottom of the ninth when he followed Spanberger's blast with a long one to right center that went for an out. Arledge joined Carson Shaddy and Michael Bernal with two homers in one game.

"He did a nice job," Van Horn said. "He hit a couple of home runs and lined out hard a couple of times. The disappointment was taking a called strike three in the 12th. It looked out of the zone. The one in the ninth was hard hit."

Spanberger's homer was the first of his career. It was also his first hit in five at bats this season after battling through a rib injury.

Arkansas starter Blaine Knight, freshman from Bryant, gave up five runs in 3.1 innings, two of those coming on hits given up by reliever Anthony Dahl. Knight threw 54 pitches. Knight was trying to battle back from an off outing in Houston last week. Van Horn said there would be a decision sometime next week on whether Knight would stay in the starting rotation.

"Obviously, he didn't do himself any favors that's for sure," Van Horn said.

Game time Sunday is at 1 p.m. The game is televised on the SEC Network Plus.

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