Arkansas by no means dominated Nebraska on Wednesday, but for the first eight innings things seemed well in hand as solid pitching and clutch defense had the Razorbacks on the verge of sweeping their two-game midweek series against the Cornhuskers. Then came the top of the ninth, where everything went wrong for the Hogs as Nebraska scored six runs and rallied for a 7-4 win in front of a crowd of 4,235 in Baum Stadium.
"We just didn't come out and do what we needed to do, and that's give ourselves a chance to hold onto that lead," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "I mean (Stephen) Richards has to throw the ball over the plate. If you can't throw the ball over the plate, he's hanging his slider and he hadn't pitched in a week so you'd think he'd have good stuff, but I don't know why.
"And we still got a chance to win it. Andy (Wilkins) makes a nice play, makes a perfect throw to (Zack) Cox at first and he doesn't catch the ball. Not only does he not make the catch, it goes clear over there (to the dugout), and this is a position player and defensive guy you think is a pretty good fielder. So you've just got to make a play."
Richards had been near perfect all season long in relief for Arkansas (13-4). But after retiring the first batter of the inning in the ninth, a one-out walk and one passed ball pitch to Cody Asche was enough to get Richards lifted in place of freshman Zack Cox.
From there, things certainly didn't get any better for the Razorbacks. Cox eventually walked Asche and then failed to handle a throw from Wilkins at first base on a bang-bang play off the bat of Cory Burleson, allowing two runs to score when the ball sailed all the way to the Nebraska dugout.
"It was a tough play," Wilkins said. "That play anytime for a pitcher having to run and catch the ball and touch first is a tough play. But sometimes you make them and sometimes you don't, and we didn't and it showed up in the scorebook."
To Nebraska's credit, the scoring didn't stop there. After Cox allowed another single to D.J. Belfonte, Geoffrey Davenport came in to pitch for Arkansas but had no better luck as he allowed three consecutive hits — including a two-run home run to Adam Bailey to seal the deal for the Cornhuskers (12-6-1).
"We made something happen right there," Nebraska coach Mike Anderson said. "And when we got it to 3 to 3 we got some really clutch hitting and I liked that. So we battled."
Arkansas trailed 1-0 after starting pitcher Sam Murphy allowed two hits in the top of the fourth. But Wilkins quickly gave the Razorbacks a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the inning with a two-out, two-run home run to left. Then in the fifth inning, Cox sent a solo shot over the right field wall to give Arkansas its 3-1 lead that held up until the ninth.
"They got it done and you've got to give them credit," Van Horn said. "On the other hand, you can't walk people. When you've got a one-run or two-run lead, make them earn it. We opened the door for them and they took big-time advantage of it."
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