Poise, perhaps more than anythng else, led to a convincing 13-3 win against Dallas Baptist in Friday's season opener in front of 650 fans in Patriots Field.
It didn't start as a blowout as a first-inning throwing error by Hogs pitcher Charley Boyce turned into a quick 1-0 deficit against the nation's No. 1 Independent team, which was undefeated after two games and clearly pumped to play a team of Arkansas' caliber.
"They were scrappy," said Arkansas third-year coach Dave Van Horn. "Sometimes it's nice to go out and really get after people and put them away, but this was a good ball game for five or six innings.
"They kept staying with it."
But the seasoned Razorbacks took a been-there-done-that attitude into the second inning and scored four runs with a two-out, two-run single by senior Casey Rowlett providing the biggest blow.
"That's the way you've got to look at it coming out of the chute," said sophomore Danny Hamblin, who doubled to lead off the inning. "We've all been fighting each other so hard, there was no way we were going to lose that game out there.
"Whatever we had to do, we were going to get it done."
The Razorbacks face the Patriots (2-1) again at noon today in the first game of a doubleheader at Texas-Arlington in Clay Gould Ballpark. They'll play the second game against UTA at 3:30 p.m. today.
Dallas Baptist didn't give up after Arkansas' rally as it scored in each of the next two innings to pull within a run (4-3) heading into the fifth.
Arkansas kept its cool and responded with a six-run inning, highlighted by a two-run homer by Jake Dugger and a grand slam by Fayetteville's Blake Parker that quickly opened up a commanding 10-3 lead.
"I didn't know what to expect," Van Horn said. "I knew we would be solid because we have a lot of returning position players, but I didn't know how we would play when the game could be on the line or when we needed to make a big play.
"And boy, we handled it."
Boyce, who fought through some tight spots of his own early, said handling adversity is a sign of a seasoned team.
"We've got an experienced team, so that's one of the advantages," Boyce said. "(Dallas Baptist) played hard and hung around, but eventually our hitters and our defense took over."
Boyce allowed two earned runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings and said he wasn't satisfied with his performance, but he'll take the team win.
"I was hoping they were going to keep me in longer, but I knew I had thrown a lot of pitches early," Boyce said. "I knew I was on a pitch count. I just didn't know how many."
Apparently, it was 80 because that's when Boyce tossed a low fastball and got a double play, ending his outing midway through the sixth. He was replace by senior left-hander Trey Holloway, who retired 12 of the 13 batters he faced in 3 1/3 scoreless innings.
"Early, (Boyce) was shaky," said Hogs catcher Brian Walker. "He was around the plate, but not quite as pin-point with his control. You could tell as the game went on, he was getting more and more into it because he started expanding the zone and when he can do that, he's a tough guy to hit."
Arkansas added three more runs in its final two at-bats. Rowlett hit a two-out RBI triple and later scored on a passed in the eighth and Scott Hode lined a two-strike single up the middle to drive in a run in the ninth.
"We did a lot of damage late in innings," Van Horn said. "That's tough on a team, when they think they have one or two quick outs and we keep chipping away."
Rowlett led the Razorbacks by going 3-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs while Hamblin, Hode and Parker contributed two hits apiece in the Hogs' 14-hit outburst.
"We have a team that can hit a little bit," Van Horn said. "We've got some depth and I just feel like we're going to have a lot of games where we score in a lot of innings, maybe not four and six runs, but one here and two there and can chip away.
"But I like how it worked out (Friday)."
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