After a pair of losses to open the weekend, Arkansas put itself in a must-win situation Sunday to keep hopes of making the Southeastern Conference Tournament alive. And thanks to a throwing error in the eighth inning which allowed pinch-runner Sean Jones to score, the Razorbacks avoided the sweep and got the victory they had to have in a 5-4 decision against Alabama.
With 6,426 on hand for Larry Shank Day — honoring the former Arkansas public address announcer — the Diamond Hogs jumped ahead of Alabama early and for once didn't allow the Crimson Tide to respond late. Getting 3 2/3 innings of no-hit relief from Mike Bolsinger, the Razorbacks never gave Alabama (28-22, 12-12) the lead before scoring the winning run in the eighth.
"It was a big win for us," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "I'm sure there was a lot of teams across the league that were just hoping we'd get beat today and they could said bye bye to Arkansas, and we're still here."
With the score tied 4-4 in the bottom of the eighth, Casey Coon led the inning off with a double to left-center. Then after Coon was removed for pinch-runner Jones, Arkansas (28-20, 10-13) forced the issue with one out and Brett Eibner at the plate.
On a 2-2 pitch, Van Horn called for Jones to steal third base. And even though Eibner struck out on the play, Alabama catcher Kyle Moore hurried his throw and sent the ball well over the third baseman's head into left field to allow Jones to score the game-winning run.
"In my mind, I'm thinking I've got to get (Jones) over here. I've got to steal or do something," Van Horn said. "But they pick off a lot and they do a good job of that. So we just waited until we got into the count and we gave Sean the steal sign. And it was kind of a different type of sign, it was a late sign. And he got a great jump, we swung at a ball in the dirt and I think the catcher just kind of rushed. He panicked a little bit, I think, just wanting to make that play.
"And when it left his hand I knew it was going into left field, so I was just screaming for Sean to get up and get in there."
Bolsinger retired the first batter in the ninth on a fly ball to right field before handing the pitching duties over to Stephen Richards, who worked around a two-out single to secure the win.
"That was a huge upswing for the team, what Bolsinger did," Richards said. "He threw a hell of a game and shut them down. That's what we needed and I just tried to come in and save the game for him because he deserved that win more than anybody else."
Arkansas scored two runs in both the first and second to build a 4-1 lead. But over the next five innings, the Razorbacks' offense went quiet as Alabama starter Robert Phares found his groove.
Then came the eighth, were Arkansas found the one break it needed to stay alive in the SEC race.
"They jumped on us pretty good as you would expect from a team that had lost the first two (in the series)," Alabama coach Jim Wells said. "I was proud that Phares was able to settle down, but it came down to a base hit and then a ball thrown over the third basemen's head.
"So it was a tough one to lose. We played well this weekend, but that was basically it."
Arkansas 5, Alabama 4
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