FAYETTEVILLE - One big swing of the bat and one super gutsy pitching performance in the clutch. Add them together and Arkansas has itself a much-needed Friday night win on the Southeastern Conference baseball diamond.
Locked in a tie with visiting Tennessee the Razorbacks got the big swing from Ryan Cisterna, who sent a 1-1 pitch in the seventh inning into the left field bullpen for a two-run home run.
Then Stephen Richards followed with the gutsy pitching, working out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth to help preserve a pivotal, 5-4 Arkansas win in front of 3,065 at Baum Stadium.
"This is huge, especially on a Friday night," said Richards, who worked the final 2 2/3 innings in relief to get the win. "I mean Ryan Cisterna hitting that home run, he basically put the team on his back and carried the offense. And then I just tried to carry that momentum to the mound and keep the win for us."
With the Volunteers (22-15, 9-7) carrying some hot bats to the plate entering the series, Arkansas needed its offense to keep pace. And when it counted the most, the Razorbacks (21-16, 6-9) delivered.
Cisterna's two-run shot - paired with Aaron Murphree's two-run pinch-hit triple in the fifth - was pretty much all Arkansas got at the plate. But thanks to starter Dallas Keuehcel and Richards, that was all the Diamond Hogs would need.
"Cisterna did a nice job with that breaking ball (on the home run) and he hit it hard," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "And Murphree with two strikes hits it off the top of the fence. Other than that we didn't do a whole lot. But when we had our chance for the most part, we got it done. So that was exciting to see some guys come through with some big hits."
After striking out the final two batters in the seventh with the game still tied, 3-3, Richards went on to fan the side in the eighth. But then in the ninth the Volunteers made their push by starting the frame with three straight singles.
Faced with a tough spot, though, Richards found his way out. After getting a force at third base on a failed sacrifice bunt, another single by Kentrail Davis loaded the bases with just one out. But Richards settled back in from there, striking out Yan Gomes and getting Cody Brown on a flyout to right field to end the game.
"For him to go in the seventh and get a couple of quick outs and then cruise through the eighth, and then to have them jump out at him in the ninth, he really showed me something," Van Horn said. "He battled to get out of that and he showed a lot of gumption. We haven't used that word in a long time, but he did. He didn't back down and he got the big strikeout and the popup and it was huge."
Arkansas 5, Tennessee 4
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