Photo by Danny Parker

Vanderbilt 6, Arkansas 2

Arkansas couldn't figure out Vanderbilt's ace Saturday night, setting up a rubber match.

FAYETTEVILLE – Kyle Wright lived up to the hype Saturday night.

The projected top-five pick in next month’s MLB Draft took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and helped Vanderbilt beat Arkansas 6-2 to even the series.

“He was awfully good,” head coach Dave Van Horn said. “We had a couple shots at him and he got off the hook. … He just kept doing a great job of making some great pitches.”

Here is a snapshot of the loss:

Turning Point

Instead of naming a particular turning point, HawgsDaily will tip our cap to Wright, who was outstanding for the Commodores.

Some experts think he could even sneak up to No. 1 overall in the draft and you could see why Saturday. He allowed two hits and one walk in seven scoreless innings.

“He throws extremely hard, but he also has a lot of movement,” Van Horn said. “He threw that breaking ball, mixed in a few changeups and just did a really good job against us. He’s everything as advertised.”

Wright struck out the first five batters of the game and finished with 11, the second most by an opposing pitcher against Arkansas this season. Only Mississippi State’s Konnor Pilkington had more, with 13 in eight innings back in March.

“He painted the corners,” Jake Arledge said. “He had his off speed for a strike. His fastball was working for him. He mixed the counts up pretty good and he just pitched really well.”

The Razorbacks didn’t get a hit until the sixth inning, when Jax Biggers hit a pitch into right field with one out. That helped Arkansas avoid being no-hit for the first time since Nebraska in 2013.

“Most of the night he was ahead in the count on basically everybody,” Biggers said. “I got in a good 2-0 hitters’ count and sat on fastball and he threw one.”

Luke Bonfield added another hit in the seventh inning when he led off with a soft liner to left field that was nearly caught by a diving Ro Coleman.

Arkansas’ other two hits came in the ninth inning off Vanderbilt reliever Drake Fellows.

Coleman Breaks Out for Vandy

Speaking of Coleman, he was just 2 for 24 (.083) in SEC play coming into the weekend. That hasn’t slowed him down against the Razorbacks, though.

He reached base each of his first four plate appearances and finished 3 for 4 with a walk and run scored.

In Friday’s game, he went 1 for 2 with a walk and hit by pitch. Spanning the two games, Coleman reached base in seven consecutive plate appearances.

He has also tormented the Razorbacks with his speed, stealing two bases and reaching on a bunt single.

Knight’s Night

Opposing Wright in what many expected to be a pitcher’s duel, Knight was not quite as sharp, but still pitched well.

The sophomore from Bryant allowed one run – a solo home run in the fifth – on six hits and three walks while striking out five in five innings. He actually pitched into sixth, but was relieved after Vanderbilt got back-to-back hits to start the inning.

“Really good stuff, honestly,” catcher Grant Koch said of Knight. “He really battled tonight. Coming into tonight, I figured he’d have some fire in him and he did. He gave us all he got.”

The Bus

Playing in his final regular-season home series, Alex Gosser got a rare start Saturday. He batted seventh as the designated hitter and actually gave the Razorbacks their first base runner.

Leading off the third inning, the senior from North Little Rock fouled off five two-strike pitches before drawing an 11-pitch walk. The crowd of 8,021 gave him a loud cheer, as he is a fan favorite.

Dingers

With the game already out of reach, Koch hit a deep home run to right field, capping Arkansas’ scoring. It was his team-leading 12th homer of the season.

Vanderbilt’s first four runs came via the long ball, as Will Toffey hit a solo shot in the fifth and Julian Infante hit a three-run bomb in the seventh.

“Give Toffey credit,” Van Horn said. “He got a mistake and he hit it out of the park.”

Both teams have hit three home runs in the first two games, accounting for 10 of the 15 total runs this series.

Stats to Know

-After he gave up the three-run home run, sophomore left-hander Kacey Murphy walked back-to-back batters to end his outing. Both were impressive at bats by the Commodores, as Reed Hayes and Ethan Paul combined to foul off 11 two-strike pitches.

-Assuming Wright is picked where he’s projected, he will be the latest first-round MLB Draft pick to pitch for Vanderbilt at Baum Stadium the same year he was drafted. Here is a list of the others:

https://twitter.com/NWAHutch/status/863531279417044994

-Dominic Fletcher, who had homered in Arkansas’ last three games, went 0 for 3. The last Razorbacks player to homer in four consecutive games was Aaron Murphree, who hit one in six straight games in March 2008.

-The score could have been much worse for Arkansas, but Vanderbilt went just 3 for 15 with runners in scoring position. The Commodores stranded six runners on second or third base.

Looking Ahead

Arkansas (36-14, 15-6 SEC) and Vanderbilt (30-20, 13-12) will play the rubber match of the series at 1 p.m. Sunday. The Mother’s Day game is Baum Stadium’s last this regular season.

The Razorbacks are starting senior right-hander Dominic Taccolini (3-0, 4.99 ERA), who hasn’t pitched since April 14 because of arm soreness, while the Commodores will send sophomore right-hander Chandler Day (7-1, 3.54 ERA) to the mound.

It will be streamed on SEC Network+, meaning it can be watched on ESPN3.com or on the WatchESPN app.


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