FAYETTEVILLE – Things got weird at Baum Stadium on Good Friday.
A bunt single complemented by two errors on the final play of the game lifted Arkansas to a 5-4 win over Georgia in 10 innings.
After blowing a lead in the ninth inning for the second straight weekend, the Razorbacks (28-8, 10-4 SEC) decided to pinch-hit with Evan Lee to start the 10th.
He fought back from an 0-2 count and fouled off a 3-2 pitch before drawing a leadoff walk. Eric Cole laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Lee into scoring position, but Georgia pitcher Blake Cairnes’ throw ended up in right field.
Cole and Lee advanced to second and third, respectively, on the error. Then right fielder Tucker Bradley fired a throw home, thinking Lee might try to score.
His throw sailed over the catcher and the pitcher, bouncing off the backstop and rolling into no man’s land in front of Arkansas’ third base dugout.
While this was unfolding, Lee was watching from third and made eye contact with third base coach Tony Vitello.
“My eyes were wide open, his eyes were wide open, we were kind of like deer in the headlights,” Lee said. “All of the situations went through my head…in a matter of line five seconds and then I was just like, ‘Go.’
“It wasn’t the prettiest thing, but it happened.”
Five seconds may have been an exaggeration, but it felt like an eternity before Lee decided to take off toward home plate. He slid in safely and was mobbed by his teammates.
The play gave Arkansas the series win, something it failed to accomplish last season when the Razorbacks blew a seven-run lead in Game 2 against LSU.
“A lot of people would say that loss to LSU last weekend would change or be a catalyst in our season as to where it’d be recovery or fall from there,” Lee said. “I think this win kick starts us in the right direction towards an SEC Championship or road to Omaha and those accolades.”
Arkansas would not have needed Lee’s extra-inning heroics if it closed out the game in the ninth.
Three straight base hits loaded the bases for the Bulldogs before a one-out grounder pushed a run across the plate to cut the Razorbacks’ lead to one.
Instead of settling for one out and runners on the corners, Arkansas second baseman Carson Shaddy tried to turn a double play on the grounder and threw the ball away. That allowed Georgia to tie the game.
“There’s no way we’re going to turn the double play there,” head coach Dave Van Horn said. “He’s got to know. He’s trying to do too much. Just take the out.”
The Bulldogs nearly took the lead in the inning, too. Shaddy fielded what should have been an inning-ending ground ball, but his throw to first was low.
Thinking quickly, Spanberger picked up the ball and threw to catcher Grant Koch because the runner on second tried to score on the play. His throw was perfect and Koch laid down the tag just before Cam Shepherd’s foot reached the plate.
“Chad had enough awareness to make the throw to the plate,” Van Horn said. “He didn’t feel sorry for himself or us. He just turned and fired a strike.”
Almost all of Arkansas’ production came with two outs Friday night.
Of the Razorbacks’ 13 hits, 11 came when they were down to their final out of the inning. In fact, their first run of the game with three consecutive hits with two outs in the fourth inning.
“A lot of our innings were created later in the inning,” Van Horn said. “We did a nice job of battling.”
The 11-for-20 performance with two outs improved Arkansas’ batting average to .290 in those situations this season.
A day after hitting five home runs, the Razorbacks hit just one Friday, but it was a big out.
Luke Bonfield’s two-run home run with two outs in the seventh gave Arkansas a 3-2 lead and woke up a mostly quiet crowd of 6,419 fans.
“We’re down a run, two outs and bang, he hit one,” Van Horn said. “It was a huge swing for us. It didn’t hold up, but it definitely gave us some momentum and gave us an opportunity to win the game.”
Georgia designated hitter Michael Curry went deep for the Bulldogs again, as well. He hit a pair of homers Thursday and then gave Georgia a 1-0 lead with a leadoff homer in the fourth Friday.
Curry also delivered a go-ahead RBI single in the fifth inning. It was his sixth RBI of the weekend, as he accounted for Georgia’s first six runs.
“He’s a scary hitter,” Van Horn said. “It’s like them pitching to Spanberger right now. He’s got three home runs against us in two days. That tells you right there that he’s dangerous.”
Stats to Know
-Despite having the worst batting average in Arkansas’ starting line, Eric Cole had the best day at the plate Friday. The sophomore from Texas went 4 for 5 with a double. It was his first career four-hit game. In his fourth at bat, he hit a solid line drive directly to the right fielder for his lone out.
-Curry is 6 for 8 with six RBIs for Georgia through the first two games of the series. Bradley, Georgia’s right fielder who committed the final error, is 4 for 8, but the rest of the team is a combined 7 for 55 (.127).
Arkansas can finish off the sweep against Georgia on Saturday.
The Razorbacks are starting fifth-year senior right-hander Josh Alberius (2-4, 3.55 ERA), while the Bulldogs will send junior right-hander Chase Adkins (4-3, 2.98 ERA) to the mound.
First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. and it will be streamed on the SEC Network+, meaning it can be watched online on ESPN3.com or on the WatchESPN app.