For what seems like the umpteenth time this season, one big inning did the Razorback baseball team in again.
No. 2 Texas A&M plated four unearned runs in the fourth against Keaton McKinney and got a complete-game pitching performance from Kyle Simonds while downing Arkansas 6-2 Sunday before 6,081 fans at Baum Stadium.
Arkansas (26-18, 7-14) won the opener of Saturday’s twin bill to end Texas A&M’s 10-game win streak, but the Aggies (35-9, 14-7) bounced back by winning the final two games.
“You have to tip your hat,” Arkansas sophomore Carson Shaddy said about Simonds. “You have got to have solid approaches and a lot of the guys did not have solid approaches, which to beat that guy you have got to have a solid approach.”
The Razorbacks have been to 13 postseasons in 13 years under Van Horn and Arkansas has a a streak of 14 overall, but it doesn’t look good right now for that to continue.
Van Horn was asked if his team was playing without a sense of urgency, something that he very much disagreed with after the game.
“That’s your opinion, but it is pretty intense in the dugout,” Van Horn said. “I have to say once we got down 4-0 (actually 4-1), it might get a little bit flat in there, but it is not a flat where they are not really trying. It’s just that we are trying to figure out how to get on base against a guy who is not walking anybody and not leaving the ball in the middle of the plate.
“That was the frustration, but I don’t think there is a lack of intensity whatsoever. We know our situation.”
Shaddy, who had three hits and drove home both of Arkansas’ runs with a second-inning single and a ninth-inning home run, still sees a path to the postseason.
“Our goal the second half of the season in the SEC was to go 8-7,” Shaddy said. “We are four wins into it and I think we would be good from there.
“We are on the brink. I feel like we have played good baseball the last two weeks and good things are going to start happening. We put up 15 hits yesterday in game two and in game one and people are starting to find it.”
Simonds (7-1) pitched a complete game, staying in after Shaddy’s seventh homer of the year that led off the bottom of the ninth and set the final score.
He allowed the two runs on eight hits while fanning four, walking two and hurling 115 pitches, 77 of them being strikes.
“He did a great job,” Van Horn said. “He's a senior. He wasn't overpowering. The numbers kind of said that he was hard on lefties. He threw fastballs and change ups to the left-handers and he threw fastballs and sliders to the right handers.
“He threw a lot of strikes, he walked a couple of people, but it was kind of silent it seemed like. We had one opportunity to really get to him the whole game in the second.”
The Razorbacks took a 1-0 lead in the second when Michael Bernal tripled off the center field wall and Shaddy drove him home with a single that went off the right field wall.
It was just a single because Rick Nomura - who was at first - didn’t get a big enough lead off the base.
“There was a little bit of a base running mistake,” Van Horn said. “There is no way Nomura should be tagging up on that play. He should be halfway and when the player falls to the ground he should end up at third base.
“We should have had runners at first and third or second and third with less than two outs. Instead we had first and second and one out.
“You never know, but I feel like we would have punched in another run there.”
McKinney had breezed through the first three innings while facing the minimum before things fell apart in the fourth.
“I thought McKinney was a lot better today,” Van Horn said. “Especially the first three innings. The fourth inning he should have had two outs and nobody on, but once he got into the game, it seemed like he lost it a little bit.”
Bernal’s one-out throwing error set the tone and Boomer White tied the game with a double that plated Nick Choruby.
“We gave them an opportunity, opened up the window for them with that ground ball that turned into an error in the fourth,” Van Horn said. “Keaton was kind of cruising along, there was a one-out ground ball and he kind of rushed the throw. It kind of opened up that window and here they came.”
McKinney fanned Ryne Birk for the second out, but then Michael Barash doubled home a pair of runs and Nick Banks added a run-scoring single to put the Aggies up 4-1.
Texas A&M pushed that margin to 5-1 in the sixth and knocked McKinney out of the game in favor of left-handed reliever Kacey Murphy.
Murphy entered the game after Barash’s two-out single and promptly walked a batter and gave up a run-scoring single to Banks before exiting in favor of Isaiah Campbell.
“Murphy came in and we had two lefties lined up and he threw six balls in a row and they ended up getting a base hit on a fastball because they were ahead in the count 3-1,” Van Horn said. “That was disappointing.”
McKinney (1-3) went 5 2/3 innings while allowing one earned run on six hits while fanning five, walking one and throwing 64 strikes among his 94 pitches.
“I am getting healthier every day,” McKinney said. “My hip didn’t stiffen up at all. It is definitely just day-by-day and it is getting better. I am just working through that mentally and mechanically and all I can do throughout the week.”
The Razorbacks had six straight innings where it had a runner on with two outs, but could not plate anyone of those.
Arkansas will travel to Springfield, Mo., on Tuesday to face Missouri State, the team the Razorbacks beat to punch its ticket to the College World Series last season, in a 6:35 game.
“I hear they are advertising the game so I am sure they are going to have a big crowd,” Van Horn said. “I know they had a big crowd when they played Missouri a couple of weeks ago and I feel like we will have a big crowd.
“It is what it is. They have got a really good program and have a pretty good season going on.”
Arkansas will then travel to LSU this weekend.
“My biggest worry is who are we going to pitch,” Van Horn said. “Then we are heading down to Baton Rouge and it is already a tough place to play, but they are pretty offensive.”