FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas hit its way out of a month-long drought Sunday.
The Razorbacks slugged three home runs and beat Vanderbilt 7-1, giving them their first series victory since mid-April.
“We came into today with a little more aggressive mindset,” catcher Grant Koch said. “I think we kind of came out on a mission. Sunday’s our day, and we’ve got to win on Sunday to be a good team.”
Here is a snapshot of the win:
With Arkansas clinging to a 3-1 lead, the Commodores got a leadoff double by Ethan Paul in the fifth inning. After two groundouts, including on that moved Paul to third, Dominic Taccolini walked Vanderbilt nine-hole hitter Connor Kaiser.
That put runners on the corners with the top of the lineup coming to the plate, so head coach Dave Van Horn decided to bring in Jake Reindl, despite the sophomore throwing six straight balls in a short outing Friday.
The move paid off, as Will Toffey – who homered Saturday – was first-pitch swinging and flew out to left field to end the threat.
“When I took the ball from (Reindl) Friday, I didn’t say anything except, ‘Get ready for tomorrow,’” Van Horn said. “Well, tomorrow ended up being today and he did a super job.”
That was the last – and only – time the Commodores had a runner in scoring position.
Reindl pitched the final 4 1/3 innings and earned his third save of the season. He allowed just three hits and struck out six while walking none.
“He just pounded the zone with his stuff, like he usually does,” Koch said. “Coming back from (Friday) night, he had confidence and I had confidence in him that wasn’t going to happen again.”
Making his first appearance in a month, Taccolini gave Arkansas arguably its best Game 3 start in SEC play.
The senior from Sugar Land, Texas, struck out only one batter, but kept Vanderbilt off the base paths for the most part. In his first four innings, his only blemishes were a leadoff home run in the second and a two-out single in the third.
“He really didn’t have command of his breaking ball, but his fastball had a lot of sink,” Van Horn said. “He threw two-seamers and four-seamers and they went up there swinging.”
Although the 4 2/3-inning start doesn’t jump off the page, it was particularly impressive considering what Arkansas had been getting on the third day of its SEC series.
The last two weeks, those starters went a combined 3 1/3 innings and allowed seven earned runs.
Taccolini’s start actually matched the longest Game 3 start in SEC play this season. (Josh Alberius went 4 2/3 innings against Mississippi State in the first conference series this year.)
“I was just hoping he would give us four innings,” Van Horn said. “Four would have been great and have us be in the game. Obviously we were and he came out of the game with a lead. I’m just proud of him hanging in there.”
In an odd statistic, Taccolini – who hadn’t pitched since April 14 because of arm soreness – has appeared in 14 games this season, with Arkansas winning all 14.
He has earned a decision in just four of those games, though, and acknowledges it took some luck to get to that point.
“That was actually a joke I said last week to one of my roommates,” Taccolini said. “Even the Louisiana Tech game when I gave up seven (runs), we came back and won.”
For the second time this weekend, Arkansas got a first-inning home run to take an early lead. This time, it was Koch who launched a deep two-run shot into the Hog Pen with two outs.
“I think it was probably the biggest swing of the day,” Van Horn said of Koch’s home run. “It gave us a good feeling. … It gave us a little confidence.”
In the sixth inning, the Razorbacks hit two home runs off the right field foul pole. Dominic Fletcher hit one to start the frame and then Chad Spanberger crushed a two-run homer a few batters later.
Van Horn said he couldn’t remember seeing two home runs off the foul pole in the same game, let alone the same inning. Taccolini echoed those thoughts.
“The odds of that happening have got to be some astronomical number, for sure,” Taccolini said.
Vanderbilt’s lone run was a leadoff homer by Julian Infante in the second inning.
The teams combined for 10 home runs over the weekend, accounting for 16 of the 23 total run scored.
Stats to Know
-Arkansas drew 5,328 fans for the Mother’s Day game, bringing its season attendance to 147,956. In terms of tickets sold, the official attendance for the season was 239,382 for 30 home dates. That’s an average of 7,979 tickets sold per game.
-Vanderbilt centerfielder Jeren Kendall is projected to be a top-15 pick – and could potentially go in the top 10 – in next month’s MLB Draft, but struggled against Arkansas. He ended the weekend 2 for 12 with one RBI.
-The Razorbacks wore their crème-colored throwback uniforms for the first time Sunday.
For the sixth straight season, Arkansas will hit the road for its final series of the regular season. The Razorbacks (37-14, 16-10 SEC) play a three-game series at Texas A&M (35-17, 15-12) beginning at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
A series win would likely result in Arkansas hosting an NCAA regional, but the Razorbacks need to sweep the Aggies and get some help (Mississippi State winning two of three against LSU) to win the SEC West title.
“Who’s to say what’s going to happen?” Van Horn said. “Only thing we can do is just play A&M on Thursday and see what happens and kind of go from there.”
The first two games will be streamed on SEC Network+, meaning they can be watched on ESPN3.com or the WatchESPN app, while the third game will be televised on the SEC Network.