Team Black used a pair of fourth inning home runs from Matt Reynolds and Travis Sample to take the lead, and a ninth inning blast from Derrick Bleeker to preserve it in a 6-4 win over Team Cardinal in Game 1 of the Razorbacks' Fall World Series.
"It was a good game," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "It was a fun game to watch.
"It was a good learning experience for some of the young guys; there were some clutch hits, some clutch pitching. The game was pretty well played…The red team came within one big hit of rallying from four runs down, so that was good to see them keep fighting like that."
The Black team tacked onto its lead in the top of the seventh inning when Collin Kuhn scored from second base on an errant pickoff attempt by Cardinal relief pitcher Jordan Pratt, and later added to its cushion on a 2-run home run by the freshman Bleeker with two outs in the top of the ninth.
"We've got a couple of really good freshmen," Van Horn said of his freshmen hitters. "They've been playing well all fall. I think that was Reynolds first home run all fall, but he's hit well and shown a lot of power. Bleeker, that's hit first home run as well. He's a big kid and he's got some juice.
"It's good to see those guys do that. Now that they've figured out they can do it, they might do it again."
Bleeker's home run gave the Black a 6-2 lead and it proved handy when sophomore second baseman Bo Bigham plated a pair of runners with a no-out, 2-RBI double in the bottom of the ninth. Bigham - who scored the game's first run - later moved to third on a sacrifice fly, but was stranded when the switch-hitting Jarrod McKinney struck out to end the game.
The Cardinal stranded 10 base-runners for the game.
Reynolds' solo shot to left field and Sample's 2-run home run over the 400-foot mark in center field came off Cardinal starter Geoffrey Davenport, who went 6.1 innings in the loss. Davenport gave up three earned runs on just four hits.
"I thought he did real well," Van Horn said. "I'll tell you what I liked was when he did give up a home run, he bounced right back and got right back after it. He can't get it back, so you've got to move onto the future and get the next guy out and he showed me something there.
"He's pitched well all fall and has been one of our most improved players throwing the ball 88, 90, 91 miles an hour. He's going to be a guy for us this spring."
Cardinal had taken a 2-0 lead in the third inning on an RBI double from McKinney to plate Zack Cox, who had reached on an infield single. Cox, who starred in the Cape Cod League over the summer, went just 1-for-4 with three strikeouts.
Black was able to hold onto its lead thanks in large part to stellar work out of the bullpen. Trent Daniel and Scott Limbocker combined to pitch 3.1 innings of scoreless baseball, while allowing just two hits. Limbocker, who came on with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning, needed just two pitches to retire the side and struck out two more in a 1-2-3 seventh.
The series will resume Saturday with the first pitch of Game 2 scheduled for 11 a.m. Potential weekend starters Mike Bolsinger (Cardinal) and Drew Smyly (Black) will get the starts on limited pitch counts.