TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Andy Wilkins never left the left-handed batter's box in Sewell-Thomas Stadium. In fact, Arkansas' first baseman never even took one step toward first base after crushing a ninth-inning pitch from Alabama's Nathan Kilcrease.
By the time Wilkins' bat slapped the top of his back, his line drive already had landed in the glove of Alabama first baseman Wes Henderson. Two batters later, No. 21 Alabama's sweep of No. 17 Arkansas was complete after a 6-5 Crimson Tide victory before 3,855 fans.
Wilkins' unfortunate line out, with no outs and Chase Leavitt on third base, served as the annoying conclusion to a weekend full of frustration for Arkansas. The Hogs led in all three games this weekend, but they trudged toward their team bus late Sunday afternoon losers of five straight.
"What do you do?" Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn asked reporters in frustration. "We did that two or three times today. We hit a ball to (left) field that the guy made a really good catch on it. ... It's just real disappointing that we didn't at least get that game to extra innings.
"You couldn't ask Wilkins to do much more. He hit it about as hard as you can hit it."
Alabama (35-15, 17-9) moved within 1/2 game of first-place LSU in the SEC Western Division, while Arkansas (31-17, 14-12) remained 3 1/2 games out in fourth. The Crimson Tide slugged four home runs in Sunday's game off Arkansas' Brett Eibner, giving Alabama 10 for the weekend series and an even 100 for the season.
The Razorbacks, meanwhile, struggled to produce a game-changing hit when they needed one during Sunday's late innings. While Wilkins struck the ball solidly in the ninth, the Hogs failed to put the ball in play during other crucial scoring opportunities.
Arkansas loaded the bases with one out in the sixth, but Jarrod McKinney struck out and Zack Cox lined out to the shortstop. Scott Lyons reached second with one out in the seventh, but Kuhn and Leavitt struck out. Kuhn struck out with the tying run on second to end the eighth, and the Hogs stranded Leavitt after his leadoff triple in the ninth.
"We just have to get a big hit," Van Horn said. "We have to drive in those runs."
Alabama coach Jim Wells sounded like he felt fortunate the Razorbacks couldn't manage more than one run on three hits against his three relievers. Wells spoke glowingly about his bullpen, complimenting them for "doing what they're supposed to do."
But he realized Alabama wouldn't have won its seventh straight game without defensive plays such as Tyler Odle's diving catch of a deep Leavitt fly ball in the sixth. Those defensive gems helped Alabama rally after Arkansas scored three first-inning runs.
"Sometimes they hit it at you," Wells said. "The odds of the game have caught up to us. Wilkins scorched it, and we just happened to have a guy there. So it worked out. We had some good fortune, which is part of playing over the course of 70 games, and I'm happy for it."
As thrilled as Wells was, the Razorbacks were equally devastated. Once ranked in the top five, the Razorbacks head home for one game against Oral Roberts and three against Ole Miss, their chances of hosting a regional dimming.
Just before packing up for Fayetteville, Wilkins voiced his displeasure with Arkansas' recent results. He shook his head and grimaced when asked about his ninth-inning line drive.
"It's been real frustrating," Wilkins said. "I mean, we had a couple of opportunities today where we could've driven in some runs, and we didn't. We hit a couple of hard hit balls in the ninth and couldn't get it done.
"Hopefully things will start swinging our way. They have to, you would think."
Alabama 6, Arkansas 5
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