Haas Pratt went 4-for-4 with a momentum-changing homer and pitcher Clint Brannon hurled a complete-game effort as the University of Arkansas whipped Le Moyne 4-1 Friday night in the opening round of the NCAA Baseball Regional at Baum Stadium.
Le Moyne jumped to a 1-0 lead, but Pratt and freshman Danny Hamblin went back-to-back blasts in the fourth inning and Brannon took care of things from that point on.
"It was a well-played game," Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. "Le Moyne came out and hit some balls hard and we did to, but didn't have anything to show for it early on. But when Haas hit his home run and Danny followed it up, the momentum changed and Clint did a great job at making adjustments and just getting things going."
The win moved Arkansas (40-21) into a 3:30 p.m. winners' bracket final Saturday afternoon against Wichita State (48-14), who whipped Missouri 3-0 in the opening game of the four-team event behind winning pitcher Mike Pelphrey's 14-strikeout effort on the mound.
"They are a very good ballclub," Van Horn said. "We'll throw Charley Boyce and I'm sure it is going to be a great game."
Le Moyne (36-20) and Missouri (37-22-1) will meet at 11 a.m. Saturday morning in an elimination game to kick off the day's three contests with the winner staying alive to battle the Arkansas-Wichita State loser at 7:30 p.m.
"We have gotten clutch hits all season and we will at 11 a.m. tomorrow, but we didn't get them tonight," Le Moyne head coach Steve Owens. "...But I am very proud of the way my team played and we're not done yet."
Brannon (4-3) actually looked on the ropes in the second inning when Jeff Justice doubled and Arkansas third baseman appeared to commit an error allowing Justice to go to third when he threw wildly on Mike Affronti's grounder.
But third base umpire Mitch Mele ruled that Justice had interfered with Goodwin and called Justice out on the play.
Andre Enriquez followed with a double and Brian Hansen gave his team a 1-0 lead when he lofted a sacrifice fly.
Brannon escaped without further damage, but the Dolphins were left wondering what might have been on a night when the Arkansas pitcher gave up only one unearned run on eight hits while fanning three and going the distance.
"We had him on the ropes there very early, but let him off the hook," Owens said of the second-inning miscue.
Justice declined comment on the play, but Owens admitted he was bummed about the call.
"I find myself wondering about a lot ot things," Owens said. "But that's the call and that's his judgment and there is nothing you can do about it."
Le Moyne ace Matt Scherer (10-3) held the Razorbacks in check until Pratt drilled his seventh home run of the season, a two-out line drive, opposite field shot over the right field fence.
It was a blast he was happy to see after hitting line drives at people a lot lately.
"That weighs on your confidence when you hit it hard, but right at people and have nothing to show for it," Pratt said. "That felt great."
Hamblin then lofted a high fly ball that just kept carrying over the left field fence for what turned into his team-leading eighth homer.
"The ball was really carrying tonight," Van Horn said. "I told them before the game that the air was thin tonight."
As Brannon was in a run of retiring 13 straight hitters, Arkansas made it 3-1 in the fifth when Blake Parker singled and eventually scored on Clay Goodwin's two-out single.
The Razorbacks took a 4-1 advantage in the eighth when Scott Hode reached on an error and Pratt doubled him home.
That was plenty good enough for Brannon, who had gone 11 innings in his last outing at the SEC Tournament in what turned into an 8-6 loss to Tennessee in 13 innings.
"I was glad to just go out and turn in nine strong and save the bullpen for the rest of the weekend," said Brannon, who gave up eight hits and tossed 124 pitches on the night.
Scherer had walked just 10 batters in 95 innings this season, but walked four and gave up three unearned runs against Arkansas while throwing 132 pitches in 7 2/3 innings.
Arkansas announced it's intention to be aggressive early when leadoff man Jake Dugger lined the first pitch to deep center.
"We said we were going to come out aggressive and swing early in the count, but if he was wild we would adjust and take some pitches and go deeper in the count," Van Horn said. "That's just what happened."
The Razorbacks were thrilled by the crowd, who called the Hogs right before Pratt and Hamblin's homers.
"They were incredible," Pratt said. "They gave us a little extra boost."
Arkansas 4, Le Moyne 1
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