SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Arkansas first baseman Andy Wilkins squeezed his glove to catch a throw from catcher Jeff Nutt, sealing the Razorbacks' 7-6, 10-inning victory over Missouri State.
And the Hogs immediately erupted Tuesday night, seemingly releasing three weeks' worth of pent-up frustration.
Coaches and players spilled out of the Arkansas dugout. Senior pitcher Shaun Seibert pumped his fist several times, and Wilkins spiked the ball onto the Hammons Field dirt. Never has a mid-week, non-conference victory felt so gratifying this season.
Arkansas entered Tuesday night's game having lost 10 of its last 14 games. But none of the Razorbacks seemed too aware of their recent failures after their thrilling victory before 1,080 fans on a nippy evening in downtown Springfield.
"March was kind of a tough month," Wilkins said. "But it's a new month. It's April now. This is a huge win. We never gave up. To come back and win a game like this is a huge plus."
The Razorbacks, who improved to 16-12, led for the first six innings but watched Missouri State (17-8) twice rally from deficits. The Bears' second rally came after Arkansas scored three runs in the top of the ninth inning to take a 6-5 lead.
Missouri State third baseman Brayden Drake forced extra innings with a two-out, two-strike single off Seibert. Arkansas answered immediately with Ben Tschepikow's sacrifice fly in the 10th, and Seibert ended the game with two straight strikeouts with two runners on base.
Seibert was slated to start Tuesday night but didn't because he felt some soreness in his right arm Monday. He arrived at Hammons Field to learn he'd been nominated for the closer role by Arkansas pitching coach Dave Jorn. Despite giving up a run in the ninth, Seibert endeared himself to Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn with his poise in that role.
"He showed a lot of toughness and leadership," Van Horn said. "I'm happy for him and who knows? Maybe that'll be his role, and we can get better and better in that closer situation."
The Hogs went up 3-0 on freshman Jacob House's two-out RBI single in the third, and at that point, a victory seemed easily attainable. Pitcher Dallas Keuchel had cruised through four shutout innings, allowing just one hit, and Travis Hill struck out the side in the sixth inning.
In fact, Missouri State's first hit out of the infield didn't come until Nolan Keane's sharp single to right with two outs in the sixth. But the Bears scored three runs in the seventh and two runs in the eighth, making the Razorbacks string together their own rally in the ninth.
Wilkins came through with a two-run, two-out single to tie the game at 5.
"Lately, I hadn't been doing too good with runners in scoring position, so I was like, 'I'm about to be a bulldog right here and do what it takes,'" Wilkins said. "I wasn't trying to do too much. I just put it in play and put a good swing on it."
Without that clutch hit, the Hogs may have left Hammons Field feeling as badly as they have all season. Instead, they feel invigorated, ready to point to Tuesday night as the moment they turned their fortunes around.
"You could tell, with all the emotion, that they wanted to win and get that winning feeling again," Van Horn said. "This is the kind of game that can change things. The way you think, the way you feel about yourself, and maybe change your season."
Arkansas 7, Missouri State 6
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