Too Close For Comfort

FAYETTEVILLE — For the second game in a row, Arkansas needed an overtime effort in Baum Stadium to pull out a win.

But unlike previous extra-inning victories, this one never should have gotten that far.

Facing a Western Illinois squad which had been blown away in a four-game sweep at Oklahoma the previous weekend, Arkansas appeared to have things under control against the Leathernecks for most of day.

But that all changed in the top of the eighth, when Western Illinois scored five times, made a game of things and forced the Razorbacks to again win one at the end.

This time, the star at the finish was Brett Eibner, who broke out of a slump with a game-winning triple in the 10th inning as Arkansas avoided disaster in an 8-7 victory in front of a crowd of 2,241.

"I've been struggling a little bit and trying to get back in the swing of things and get some offense going," said Eibner, who was 2-for-3 with two walks after starting the season in a 2-for-18 slump. "The pitch was right there and I just reacted to it.

"Really, what it was, was not thinking about it a whole lot and just reacting to it."

While Arkansas (5-1) was glad to pull this one out, being forced into an extra-inning affair against the Leathernecks (0-5) was not what the Razorbacks had in mind.

"It was a good win, but it was disappointing because we had a four-run lead with two outs (in the eighth) and we can't get an out," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "They're hitting the ball in the hole; we can't make a play. They did a nice job scoring two on a hustling play. And give them credit, they've got a good offense. They swing the bats well and that's what we were told.

"But we took advantage of some walks tonight. When they walked us, we moved people around and for the most part got them in. We did hit a few balls hard but other than that they outhit us and they outplayed us. So I feel really fortunate to win."

Making his second start on the mound, T.J. Forrest was mostly effective in allowing two runs and seven hits through seven innings. But once Forrest left the game, the pitching and defense took a rest in the eighth.

After Christian Kowalchuk surrendered two hits in two-thirds of an inning, Arkansas (5-1) went to freshman Zack Cox. And for the most part, Cox did his job by inducing several grounders. But shortstop Scott Lyons committed two errors on those plays and the Leathernecks added another infield single in the inning to score five times, taking a 7-6 lead.

The Razorbacks would settle down after that, though, tying the game in the eighth after Eibner led off with a walk and later scored.

Then in the 10th, it was Eibner again.

With one runner aboard and one out, Eibner drilled a deep triple to dead center field off Western Illinois reliever Chris Fuchs, scoring James McCann.

"I can't really describe it," Eibner said of his breakout day at the plate. "It feels great to finally get it off my chest and I feel like I'll be able to help the team out a lot more now."

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