Newcomers were the big hit -- at the plate and on the mound -- as Arkansas opened SEC play with a 5-1 victory over Georgia before 3,517 Friday night at Baum Stadium.
Freshman Brett Eibner broke a 1-1 tie with a solo homer in the fifth, then added a two-run double in the eighth to back solid pitching from junior transfer Cliff Springston and freshman Kendall Korball. Junior transfer Ryan Cisterna added a solo homer two batters ahead of Eibner in the fifth.
Springston went 5 and 1/3 innings to run his record to 4-0. He threw 90 pitches. Korball got out of a bases loaded jam with a full count strikeout for the final out in the sixth and finished up with no further problems for his first save.
Arkansas improved to 12-3. Georgia is 6-7. The series continues with a 12:05 p.m. games both Saturday and Sunday.
Of the 11 players Arkansas used against the Bulldogs, seven were newcomers. Eibner, hitting .457 for the season, had two hits in three at bats. Along with his three RBI, he also put down a perfect sacrifice bunt.
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn was excited for his youngsters afterwards. He said playing the tournament at Texas A&M and two games at top-ranked Arizona State earlier this week provided much needed experience.
"You look at Korball, and he's grown up a lot," Van Horn said. "He was prepared for this. You look back to whatever it was that happened to him at A&M and then to pitch at ASU, he didn't get rattled tonight.
"He had a 3-1 count, got the foul ball and then the strikeout. This was big for him and for the team. The hitters needed to see that we could pitch like this. It gives the team confidence to see a young pitching staff handle a game like this.
"And, our hitters did a lot of things right, too. We had a great inning in the eighth. We stole a base, we moved runners, we worked counts, we came up with clutch hits.
"Of course, they get the run in the fifth and we come back and get the homer runs from Cisterna and Eibner to get the lead back.
"There was a lot we did right tonight. We had good hitting, good pitching and some great defense."
Van Horn praised junior Logan Forsythe for all-around play. Forsythe had three hits in four at bats to raise his average to .432. But it was his defense that earned him the most praise. He helped the Hogs turne a double play after making a diving stop to his left. He made the throw to second baseman Ben Tschepikow from one knee.
"I stood up in the dugout and clapped on that one," Van Horn said. "You won't see a better play in the major leagues. It was a great play. He went to his knees, fired a strike and Ben turned it perfect. It didn't even seem to hit his glove before Ben had it gone."
Van Horn also had individual praise for his host of newcomers.
"Springston really pitched great, and Kendall was super right behind him," Van Horn said. "Cisterna got the homer and he also got the ball in play (for a sacrifice fly) with two strikes to move the runner to third in the eighth. And, Eibner, what can you say, he's a very, very good baseball player. He was impressive. He needs to work on his base running ... actually, he made a pretty good play on the one he fell down at second. He did the right thing getting back."
Eibner said he wasn't trying for a homer in the fifth.
"I was looking for the ball away and just trying to get base runners for my team in a tie game," Eibner said. "In the eighth, they changed pitchers and I had two strikes. It was a 3-1 game at that point, and I just wanted to put the bat on the ball and get it in play."
Overall, Van Horn called it a great performance by his team.
"It was an intense Friday night game in our first SEC game," he said. "We did a lot of the little things right. It was a great ball game and it was great to bounce back after the trip to Arizona State. "
Arkansas 5, Georgia 1
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