Hogs Hit With Kentucky Blues

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- After being relieved in the sixth inning, Arkansas starter Lee Land slammed his glove down on the wooden bench of the visitor's dugout in Hagan Stadium.

A similar thud was heard earlier in Sunday's game as the No. 23 Razorbacks' hearts dropped simultaneously when the Wildcats put up a five-run fourth inning en route to a 7-1 win in front of a crowd of 371.

"It was pretty frustrating," said Land, who retired the first nine batters in order. "Going through the first three innings like we did and we're feeling good. Then, we go out there in the fourth inning and it was just one thing going bad after another.

"It was like quick sand."

The Hogs (33-13, 9-12) are sinking just as fast in the Southeastern Conference standings and sit in ninth-place overall with only nine league games remaining. Sunday's setback was the third straight SEC series loss and Arkansas has dropped seven of its last eight conference games.

On the flip side, it was the first SEC series the Wildcats (23-20, 5-14) have won in the last 11 tries as they got excellent pitching from freshman left-hander Andrew Albers, who scattered seven hits in his first career complete game.

"He's got a little late sink and he was living on the outer half (of the plate)," said Kentucky coach Joe Cohen. "What happens is when you try to pull it, you're going to hit soft ground balls and pop ups into the wind that's going to hold the ball in the ballpark.

"But this young group as a whole just keeps getting better, so this is a nice reward for them. At home this weekend, it was nice to have it go our way."

Everything went Kentucky's way during the fourth inning as it put up five runs on five hits. Three of the hits were off the left-center field wall and seemed to have Hogs center fielder Craig Gentry running in circles at times while trying to corral the ball.

Cohen called it directional hitting.

"All we were trying to do was hit balls into (the left-center field) gap," Cohen said. "The ball just really jumps in that direction and if you're not used to defending this field, with that wind (blowing from left to right across the diamond), it's tough because the ball speeds up when it gets into that gap.

"Their center fielder struggled and he's a heckuva athlete, but we've seen a lot of center fielders struggle here."

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn and his staff figured it was going to be a long day when the SEC's worst defense -- which leads the league with 87 errors -- turned three double-plays in the first four innings to hold the Hogs' offense at bay.

Other Kentucky defensive highlights included center fielder Antone DeJesus making a leaping catch against the wall and first baseman Michael Bertram's diving stab that robbed Jake Dugger of an RBI double to end the seventh.

"We got off to a bad start," Van Horn said. " We hit some balls hard and they made some nice plays on us. Going into the fourth inning, we were thinking, ‘Boy, we've stranded some runners and that could end up hurting us.'"

The Wildcats added two more runs in the sixth and Arkansas' Blake Parker prevented the shutout with a solo homer over the left-field wall in the seventh.

"You've got to give them credit," Van Horn said. "They didn't get any more hits (7) than us, but they got timely hits and were able to put together the big inning that we didn't have because we either hit into a double-play or something didn't happen for us.

"It was just their day."

Arkansas returns to action Friday at home when it starts a three-game series against Florida, a team which sports an SEC-best 14-7 record in league play.

"We're frustrated, but we're still confident," Land said. "We know our backs are against the wall, but we feel like we're going to get some things corrected in practice this week and go out this weekend and get it done."

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