Dugger's blasts lift Arkansas to 3-0

Jake Dugger swats two out of the park and the University of Arkansas baseball team fends off a late South Alabama rally to win 8-7 on Saturday and complete a perfect opening weekend.

MOBILE, Ala. -- Arkansas' Jake Dugger called last season's .237 batting average a "fluke."

Evidently, he was right on the money as the hottest hitting Razorback homered twice in Sunday's 8-7 win against South Alabama in front of 1,223 at Stanky Field.

Dugger, who earned freshman All-American honors after hitting .293 two years ago, was 7 for 13 over the weekend to help No. 20 Arkansas complete a three-game sweep in the Jaguar Invitational. He was the only Razorback with at least one hit in all three games. He was 3 for 5 and tied a career-high with four RBIs on Sunday.

"(Dugger) helped us win two or three games this weekend," said Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn. "He wasn't selfish and is such a team player. He hits a home run and then tries to lay down a bunt.

"We played as a team and found a way to win."

The win wasn't in hand until third baseman Blake Parker fielded a grounder and threw to first for the final out of the game.

After Arkansas (3-0) took an 8-2 lead, South Alabama (3-2) rallied back with five runs in its final two at-bats. Parker's play came with the tying run on first and momentum clearly in the Patriots' favor.

"They're probably over there thinking they should have won and maybe they should have," Van Horn said. "But we were able to take advantage of a couple of their mistakes and got some big hits and really just didn't give them a whole lot.

"We didn't panic and got out of that last inning."

South Alabama coach Steve Kittrell's team is picked to win the Sun Belt Conference this season. The Patriots entered Sunday's game averaging a whopping 14 runs per game and led 2-1 before Dugger's first homer, a two-run shot to right in the sixth, gave Arkansas a 3-2 lead it wouldn't relinquish.

"We played five good innings, we've just got to play nine innings of baseball," Kittrell said. "Coming close doesn't help at all. We've got to be consistent and play nine innings ... Arkansas did."

Dugger's second homer, another two-run shot to right, highlighted a four-run seventh inning. Craig Gentry also hit an RBI triple over the center fielder's head in the inning. Another run in the top of the eighth pushed the lead to six runs and seemed to put the game out of reach until the Patriots' late rally.

Arkansas used three pitchers to get through the final three innings after starter Charley Boyce and reliever James Gilbert allowed one earned run through the first six innings. Devin Collis allowed one run on two hits to record his second save after coming on in relief of Trey Holloway two batters into the ninth inning.

"I thought (the bullpen) did a good job," Van Horn said. "Collis came in and threw great (Saturday) and again (Sunday) in a tight situation. We got Holloway some work after not pitching at all late last year and then we've got some guys this weekend who are probably wondering why they didn't throw.

"Hopefully, they'll be chomping at the bit to throw next weekend and they'll get it done."

Dugger spent last summer swinging a wood bat in the Cape Cod League. He made some adjustments to shorten his swing and keep the bat on a flatter plain through the strike zone.

Primarily an opposite field hitter in the past, the left-handed Dugger said the new swing is what helped him pull two fastballs over the right field wall.

"I wanted to get off to a good start," Dugger said. "The last couple of years, I didn't get off to a good start, so I just wanted to come out of the gates swinging right away and it worked out to my benefit.

"I really haven't pulled the ball like that in years past, so I think I'm a little different hitter because now I can hit the ball to both fields."

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