Charley Boyce, who has started 41 career games, gave the Razorbacks some much-needed relief during Friday's 6-5 win against Vanderbilt in front of 6,871 in Baum Stadium.
"It gives you a little sense of confidence when a guy like (Boyce) comes out of the pen," said Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn. "He's been there before. He knows his role and it looks like he kind of likes it in the way he's been coming in with an attitude and a sense of urgency to get it done.
"And he was really huge for us (Friday)."
The fourth-year junior allowed no runs on one hit in 5 2/3 innings. Boyce (6-4) threw 33 strikes in 50 pitches and should have plenty of energy left in the tank to pitch Sunday for the No. 14 Razorbacks (25-6 overall, 5-5 in Southeastern Conference play).
"Coming out of the bullpen, you've got to come in throwing strikes right away," said Boyce after making his 10th career relief appearance. "You go one pitch, one hitter and one inning at a time and before you know it, it's already the seventh or eighth inning."
Even though Boyce was cruising, the Hogs went to Lee Land to start the ninth inning as they're preparing him to be the team's closer. Senior Trey Holloway, the closer through the first 20 games, had elbow surgery Friday and is out for at least six weeks.
Land loaded the bases with two outs before getting some defensive help to end the game. Hogs right fielder Steven Robison made a sliding catch in foul territory on a ball hit by Warner Jones, one of the Commodores' top hitters.
"Stephen made a super play, got a good break on it," Van Horn said. "Jones is known for being a bad-ball hitter and that ball was up so I was kind of cringing a little bit. I feel fortunate that he didn't hit it hard because that's usually what he does with balls out of the zone."
With the Hogs trailing 3-2 in the third, Boyce relieved starter Nick Schmidt with one out and the bases loaded. After a groundout, an 0-1 fastball got away from Boyce and hit Vanderbilt's Dominic De La Osa, which scored a run to make it 4-2, before a pop-up ended the inning.
Arkansas answered with two runs in the bottom of the third when Clay Goodwin and Danny Hamblin each drove in a run to tie the score at 4-all. That ended the day for Vanderbilt starter Jensen Lewis, who entered Friday sporting a SEC-best 0.96 ERA.
Then in the fourth, Boyce retired the side in order with a six-pitch fourth inning. It gave the offense plenty momentum to complete its comeback in the bottom of the fourth as a two-run single by Hamblin off Commodores' reliever Stephen Shao gave the Razorbacks a 6-4 lead.
"That was a huge turnaround right there," Van Horn said. "We had been scoring a couple (of runs) and then they'd come right back and score, too. But they finally didn't and I think that's what really slowed them down a lot."
Vanderbilt received some help from the Hogs to take a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Mike Baxter looped a two-out single over shortstop Scott Hode's head and moved to second on a wild pitch. Jones then hit a high-hopper to Hode, whose low throw to first got away from Hamblin and allowed Baxter to score on the error.
In the bottom of the first, Arkansas took a 2-1 lead after Dugger's two-single was followed by a double off the left-center field wall by Hamblin and a single up the middle by Goodwin.
"This was a great win for us," Boyce said. "It was great to get after their No. 1 guy (Lewis) and punch him out of the game early. They're a good team, a real scrappy team that does all the little things right.
"But we did exactly what we needed to do to put momentum on our side for the rest of the weekend."
Hogs Get Relief From Boyce
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