"One of our coaches made a comment (that) it was like a heavyweight fight," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "We were getting beat around pretty bad early, but they never knocked us out."
Ben Tschepikow's two-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning tied the game at 4-4 and Collin Kuhn's safety squeeze an inning later gave James McCann just enough time to slide under the Cal catcher's glove to give the Razorbacks their fifth straight win.
"We always talk about it's 27 outs and not 26," Van Horn said. "Ben came through and gave us a chance to get to the 10th inning. ... It was a big win for us."
Kuhn's safety squeeze with one out in the 10th was his second successful bunt of the night. The freshman from Wisconsin said he feels he's become the team's go-to bunt guy.
"I've been working hard on it," Kuhn said. "I've got to be able to do that to stay in the lineup."
The safety squeeze, different from a suicide squeeze because the runner doesn't break on the pitch, made it even tougher for the slower McCann to make it home.
"He's not the fastest guy to bring home," Kuhn said. "But he was hustling."
While Tschepikow's home run was a game-changer, his hustle play to give the Hogs their first run in the sixth inning was equally as important. After singling, the fifth-year senior advanced to second on a walk. When Cal pitcher Michael Bugary threw a wild pitch, Tscepikow didn't stop at third and pulled the Hogs within 4-1.
"I got a good start off second base and saw the ball kick off the catcher a little bit and go toward our dugout," Tschepikow said. "I thought if I was going hard I could score."
Andy Wilkins scored later in the inning on a fielder's choice to pull Arkansas within 4-2.
But after another Razorback rally came up empty with runners on second and third in the seventh inning, Arkansas' chances grew dim when three players struck out in the eighth.
Razorback relief pitching, which Van Horn said had been average earlier in the week, kept the team in the game. After building a 4-0 lead in the fifth inning, Cal didn't score again.
Van Horn said it was the pitching, particularly in the eighth and ninth innings, that allowed Arkansas to stay in the game.
"I thought Zack Cox came in and did a fantastic job," Van Horn said of the freshman who pitched two scoreless innings. "His pitch count got high and it's a long season, so we brought in Christian Kowalchuk to get a lefty out to start off the ninth, but he laid one out there. Then we needed a right-hander and Justin Wells got us back into the dugout."
Stephen Richards picked up the win with his no-hit 10th inning.