Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn was almost giddy, clearly relieved that his team snapped a five-game losing streak to advance to face Texas, a 20-2 winner against Quinnipiac, at 6 p.m. today.
"This is the most complete game we've played in a while," Van Horn said. "We hit well, we pitched well, we fielded pretty well and made some nice plays and we're able to drive in runs. So this was our best outing lately - by far."
The weather cooperated, too, as gray skies clouded the scorching Texas sun, pleasing a crowd of 3,810 at Disch-Falk Field, which amplifies the on-field heat thanks to its AstroTurf surface.
But the cooler-than-expected conditions gave Arkansas (38-20) and starting pitcher Charley Boyce the most relief. He threw 81 strikes in 122 pitches before being relieved with no outs in the ninth inning.
"The bullpen has struggled a little bit lately, so for him to get eight-plus innings was huge for us," Van Horn said. "Early in the game, he established himself and gave himself a chance to (pitch deeper into the game) by getting some quick innings.
"As far as the sun not being out, I think it helped both teams continue to pitch their starters a little longer."
Boyce, a junior right-hander, was as magic as ever and kept Miami (44-17) at bay by changing speeds with his darting fastball and diving slider. He even pitched backward, setting up his fastball as an out-pitch by throwing his breaking ball early in counts instead of vice versa, most innings.
Four of his five earned runs came after running out of gas in the ninth.
"(Boyce) had pretty good command of his stuff, nothing was overpowering," said RedHawks first baseman Paul Frietch, who hit a solo homer off Boyce in the second. "He pretty much had us out on our front foot because he was throwing us sliders and then came back with his fastball.
"Our whole game plan coming in here was to get past that starter and get to that bullpen.
"It just didn't happen."
Behind Boyce's lead, the Razorbacks followed with dazzling defense and an offense which put up its most runs (9) and hits (16) in nearly a month. Reliever James Gilbert retired all three batters he faced in the ninth to make it an even more complete outing since the bullpen has been inconsistent.
"(Gilbert) came in in a pretty tight situation," Van Horn said. "He did a nice job, and let one run get in, but we should have turned a double play where that run wouldn't have even come in."
Senior third baseman Clay Goodwin put on a fielding clinic by making, among other eyebrow-raising plays, a leaping catch in the sixth and a diving stab that saved a run and ended the seventh.
It was the first time in seven games the Hogs played error-free defense and only the sixth time they've been flawless since April 3.
"They played extremely well and made my job extremely easy," said Boyce, who could be used in relief of starter Nick Schmidt today if needed. "Clay has always been making plays for me since I've been here, so that's nothing new to see with him and (shortstop Scott) Hode there on the left side of the infield.
"They kept me in the ballgame and kept my pitch count down."
The offense did it with power and finesse. The Razorbacks successfully executed a season-high four sacrifice bunts while also bouncing three balls over the wall for ground-rule doubles. Brock Bond and Blake Parker each hit triples and all nine in the starting lineup recorded at least one hit.
"It was huge to drive in runs like that," said freshman Clint Arnold, who was 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored. "It's something we haven't been able to do very well lately, even though we put up a few runs (13 in two losses) last week in the (Southeastern Conference) Tournament. They haven't come in bunches like that.
"It's good to get it going again and hopefully we can keep the momentum going here."
The Razorbacks came out swinging from the opening bell and put up two quick runs in the first inning with Bond and Arnold each driving in runs. They added another run in the fourth when Arnold drove in his second run before taking a 9-1 lead into the ninth with three runs in each of the seventh and eighth innings.
"My hat's off to Arkansas," said Miami coach Tracy Smith. "I thought they did a very good job with their approach on our starter, Graham Taylor.
"They had a great offensive plan (Friday)."
The plan must've called for getting the lead runner on since the Hogs did it in seven of the first eight innings. They did leave 11 runners stranded, but that's more of a credit to the number of hits they had rather than from a lack of run production.
"We just used the whole field and did a tremendous job," Van Horn said. "I was glad to see the contact we made up and down the lineup, especially early in the game.
"It's all about getting hot, and anything can happen this time of year.
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