A five-run eighth inning helped Arkansas overcome three errors and down California 7-3 Friday in its first road game of the season.
The Razorbacks (7-1) scored all five runs with nobody out in the eighth. Collin Kuhn, Andy Wilkins and Monk Kreder led off the inning with singles and Zack Cox gave Arkansas a 4-3 lead with a two-RBI single that chased Cal starter Justin Jones.
Razorback catcher and California-native James McCann ended the scoring with a three-run home run off the first pitch from Bears reliever Daniel Wolford to give Arkansas a 7-3 lead.
"Obviously the five-run inning put us over the top," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "It was a classic pitcher's duel, almost like a Friday night SEC game. We made a mistake or two and gave them a couple of runs, but I thought our team did a good job of putting together that inning with six outs left.
"James did a good job of jumping on the first pitch and hit a huge home run. It was fun to watch because he had struggled his first at-bat and left a couple of runners on base. He didn't feel like things were going real well and then he came through with that big hit with his parents and a lot of family there."
Cal (6-2) had led much of the game thanks in large part to a pair of crucial errors from Arkansas starter Mike Bolsinger. The Bears tied the game 2-2 in the fifth when a Bolsinger pick-off throw sailed over Wilkins' head at first base and allowed Tony Renada to score from third.
Another mistake by Bolsinger in the sixth helped Cal take a 3-2 lead. The senior pitcher knocked down and fielded a ball hit back to the mound by Danny Oh but threw it past Wilkins again, allowing Oh to advance to third. He would score one batter later.
Those were the only mistakes, however, in a near-flawless performance by the Razorback starter that helped Arkansas win its sixth straight game. Bolsinger (2-0) earned the win by pitching seven innings and allowing one earned run on six hits and no walks. He struck out a season-best six batters.
"He threw well," Van Horn said. "They've got a good lineup and coming into this series they were hitting over .400 as a team. For him to slow them down the way he did was good. He got a lot of pitches in and had some pop-ups and a couple of key strikeouts."
Freshman DJ Baxendale recorded the final five outs to earn his third save of the season. He recorded two outs in the eighth after inheriting runners on the corners from Jason Fuqua.
"Fuqua didn't have good command like he usually does and said his arm felt tight," Van Horn said. "It was huge for DJ's confidence. I think where his confidence was built up was last weekend when he came in and closed out a couple of close ballgames against Troy. It was good to see him come in there and get it done again."
The freshman Jones (2-1) picked up his first loss of the season for the Bears, allowing six runs on eight hits and three walks. Four of those runs were recorded in the big eighth inning for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas took its first lead at 2-1 on a Kuhn RBI single in the fifth inning to plate Matt Reynolds, who had reached on a fielder's choice. The Razorbacks would later load the bases in the inning but failed to score.
Cal took an early 1-0 lead on a Jimmy Bosco solo home run to right field in the second inning.
Arkansas responded in the fourth with a Wilkins solo home run, his fourth of the season. It was Wilkins' 31st career home run, one shy of the top 10 on the school's career list.
Arkansas also got production from second baseman Bo Bigham, who suffered a torn labrum in the season-opener on Feb. 19. Bigham scored pinch-running for Kreder in the eighth inning and popped up to end the top of the ninth after being cleared medically.
"He swung very well today in the pregame and I put him in the game to pinch run and told him, ‘If you want to hit, let me know,' I really wanted him to make that call," Van Horn said. "At the end of our at-bat I asked him what he wanted to do and said, ‘I want to hit.' He had a really good at-bat and drove the ball to right field. If it wasn't for the wind he might have hit it out of the park."
Van Horn said he didn't anticipate Bigham playing Friday.
"I told him I'd pinch-run him but I wasn't going to play him until he was ready," Van Horn said. "He still hasn't told me he's ready to play, so I won't start him tomorrow at this time. That could change between now and then.
"He's feeling pretty good and that at-bat gave him some confidence."
The two teams will meet again Saturday with the first pitch scheduled for 3:05 p.m., Central time. Sophomore left-hander Drew Smyly (0-0) will take the mound for Arkansas. Sophomore right-hander Erik Johnson (2-0) is expected to pitch for the Bears. Johnson hasn't allowed an earned run in two games this season.
"He throws pretty hard and has a pretty good breaking ball," Van Horn said. "He hasn't given up an earned run this year so we'll see if we can change that."
Arkansas 7, Cal 3
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