Slumped shoulders, drooped heads, bruised egos. They all caught the attention of Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn as his Razorbacks slowly jogged back to and briefly sulked in their dugout at Foley Field.
The ninth-ranked Razorbacks had just blown a four-run ninth-inning lead Saturday at Georgia, and Van Horn immediately went into fire-up mode before the 10th inning started.
"I came in the dugout, got them up and said, ‘Hey, it ain't over. It's tied up. We still have chance,'" Van Horn said.
Inspired, Danny Hamblin needed just two pitches to turn Arkansas' spirits around.
Hamblin led off the 10th by slicing an 0-1 fastball from Georgia's Justin Earls off the scoreboard in right field, accounting for the winning run in Arkansas' 7-6 victory.
The home run was Hamblin's second of the game, third in the last two days and team-high 14th of the season.
Only a few minutes earlier, Arkansas' Travis Hill had allowed a pair of two-run homers that nearly resulted in a series loss. But Hamblin, one of three Arkansas (31-11, 12-5) captains, wanted no part of consecutive defeats to the last-place squad in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division.
"It's basically on him to perform when the game gets tight, and he did," Arkansas catcher Brian Walker said. "He's a veteran. He's got an idea of what it takes, and it shows."
Both of Hamblin's home runs were to right field, a rarity this season for the 6-foot-1 first baseman. Opposing pitchers have started to pitch him outside increasingly more, and Hamblin has simply adapted. The adjustments have allowed Hamblin to hit .343 (36-for-105) since starting the season with only five hits in his first 42 at-bats.
His first home run almost never occurred. Hamblin thought the 3-1 pitch he watched from Georgia (14-25, 6-11) starter Trevor Holder was a ball. He already had jogged about 10 feet down the first-base line when home-plate umpire John Whitaker yelled "Strike!" Hamblin hurried back to the batter's box and blasted the next pitch over the 365-foot sign in right-center.
"(The 3-1 pitch) was maybe a foot outside," Hamblin said. "But it was for the best. Coach (Todd) Butler, the first thing he said to me was, ‘Luckily, you got called back.'"
All in all, despite the bullpen difficulties and the inconsistent offense (Arkansas finished with just six hits), Hamblin agreed with Van Horn. This would be a victory to remember.
"In the long run, we're going to look back at this game as a big game for us," Hamblin said. "We battled back after big adversity. For us to come back and win that game was so important for what we're trying to do this season."
"This is how championships are won."
Hill entered the game in the seventh inning, after relievers Brian McLelland and Chris Rhoads were mostly ineffective. After giving up the four ninth-inning runs, he eventually retired Georgia in order in the 10th. ... Arkansas starter Duke Welker went just five innings after showing some signs of fatigue. The junior right-hander gave up one run on six hits, but struck out just one. ... Georgia has now lost nine one-run games this season and has fallen in all five of its extra-inning games. ... No Arkansas player recorded more than one hit.
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