Hogs Win Slugfest

FAYETTEVILLE — Craig Gentry kept his right fist in the air for the first 180 feet of his walk-off home run trot that gave Arkansas a 13-11 win against Tennessee in front of 6,258 in Baum Stadium on Sunday.

Gentry, a senior, lowered the fist briefly while rounding first to slap Hogs assistant Bubbs Merrill's hand. Coming around third, Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn slapped him five and then pumped both elbows into his side a few times as Gentry disappeared into white sea of glee of Razorbacks surrounding home plate.

"It was an amazing feeling," Gentry said after his two-run homer in the ninth. "Coming around third and seeing all my teammates celebrating and there waiting on me, it was so exciting.

"I can't even describe the feeling. It was awesome."

It completed an awesome game in which both teams combined for an Southeastern Conference record 11 homers, including seven for Arkansas which tied for the second most in a game in school history. With a stiff wind (gusts up to 35 mph) blowing from right to left, all batters had to do was lift the ball into the jet stream in left field to get it over the wall.

"Right when it left (Gentry's) bat, I knew that the wind was going to blow it to the gap," Van Horn said. "He didn't crush it. He hit it up in the air and he did get some extension, but when I saw (UT center fielder Julio) Borbon just stop, I knew we were going to win the game.

"That was exciting."

More importantly, the win gave No. 11 Arkansas (23-6, 4-5 Southeastern Conference) its first conference series victory and No. 23 Tennessee (18-10) its third straight series loss.

The Razorbacks hadn't caught many breaks in SEC play before Sunday. They were in danger of losing their first three conference series for the first time since joining the league in 1992 after squandering an early five-run lead.

"We deserve to win a game like that," Van Horn said. "We've been on the other end of these things. Those of you that were in Florida got to see that disaster (a blown 7-0 lead) and a couple of other things. We deserved to win that game.

"We needed it bad."

The seven homers Sunday gave the Hogs 13 in the series to take hitting coach Todd Butler off the hook for predicting more long balls before the season. Prior to the weekend, the Hogs had 18 homers in 26 games.

"He told me about three days in a row that it was the dumbest thing he'd ever said," Van Horn said. "I said, ‘Well, maybe the second dumbest. You've probably said something dumber.'

"We knew we had a little pop. We saw it in the fall. But we've played with the wind blowing in a lot. I guess it evens up over the course of the year."

What made Gentry's homer and Blake Parker's homer (it came a few feet short of clearing the 48-foot batter's eye in dead center and tied the score at 11-all earlier in the ninth) the most impressive is the blasts came against Tennessee's Sean Watson, who sports a fastball in the mid-90s.

"Parker's ball exploded, it sounded like a gun shot and then Gentry gets one, too, against probably the best closer in the league," Butler said. "When we played at Florida, the wind was blowing out and we didn't hit any. So hopefully, this is a sign of us getting better."

Jake Dugger was 3-for-5 with a homer and three RBIs and David Hum homered twice to pace the offense. Danny Hamblin put the Hogs on the board with a towering, three-run homer to deep center in the first that erased a 2-0 Tennessee lead. They added four more runs in the second, highlighted by back-to-back homers by Chris Hollensworth and Hum, to take a 7-2 lead before three errors resulted in four Vols' runs in third inning.

Then in the fifth, Tennessee's Brian Van Kirk evened the score at 7-all with a solo homer. But Arkansas answered right back with a three-run sixth, including back-to-back homers by Hum and Dugger, to regain the lead before the Vols rallied back to take the lead in their final two at-bats.

"They're a really good team that just hits the crap out of the ball," Dugger said. "It seems like they put runners on in every inning, so we couldn't sit on leads at all. Every time we'd score, they comeback and score.

"I kept saying that this was our day to get breaks, because they got them (in an 11-6 win on Saturday and this was our day to win. I'm glad we did."

Reliever Devin Collis retired the last batter in the top of the ninth to pick up the win. He took over for Daryl Maday, who had given up two homers in the eighth that gave Tennessee an 11-10 lead.

"When I handed the ball to Collis, I said look, ‘We need one out. Get us in the dugout down one (run) and you're going to get a W," Van Horn said. " And I'm just trying to pump him up, but deep down, I believed that. I felt like it was our day to come back and win and thank goodness, it was."


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