FAYETTEVILLE – Everything that went wrong for Arkansas Tuesday went right Wednesday.
The No. 14 Razorbacks scored a season-high 21 runs and used superb pitching from their freshmen in a 21-2 win over South Dakota State at Baum Stadium, tying the two-game midweek series after a stunning loss Tuesday.
Arkansas (9-3) led from the first inning on and scored 14 runs in the final two innings, breaking out of a scoring slump that had spanned its last two-plus games. Entering Wednesday's contest the Razorbacks had scored just two runs in their previous 22 innings.
But that changed against the Jackrabbits (6-3) with nine different batters recording at least one hit and every hitter scoring in a 10-run eighth inning. Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn shuffled the Razorback lineup with Collin Kuhn leading off, moving Zack Cox and Andy Wilkins up in the lineup and giving JUCO-transfer Kyle Robinson his first start at designated hitter.
"We played well today," Van Horn said. "We made one mistake and they capitalized to score a couple of runs but we chipped away and drove in a lot of people.
"Yesterday was a hard loss for our team especially after losing Sunday. Today was a different story."
Cox' 2-run home run in the first inning and Kuhn's solo homer in the second gave Arkansas a lead it would never relinquish.
South Dakota State made things interesting with two runs off Razorback reliever TJ Forrest in the top of the fourth to pull within 3-2. Arkansas answered in the bottom half of the inning on a Bo Bigham RBI single to score Robinson.
Making just his second start since suffering a torn labrum in the season-opener, Bigham finished Wednesday 3-for-5 from the plate with four RBIs and two runs scored. He was credited with a 2-RBI double in the seventh, though three runs scored and Bigham advanced to third on an error. He also added an RBI single in the eighth.
"I was ahead in the count both times and figured a fastball was coming so I just jumped on it," Bigham said. "Luckily it fell in.
"It was good to be back out there with the guys," Bigham said. "It's been killing me not being able to be out there with them. We responded the way we needed to and got the win."
Bigham wasn't the only Razorback with a breakout game. Freshman Matt Vinson hit twice in place of Jarrod McKinney in the late innings, going 1-for-2 with a career-high four RBIs. Vinson's 3-RBI triple in the eighth extended Arkansas' lead to 17-2.
"He's got a lot of talent," Van Horn said. "He took some pitches on changeups and didn't jump at the ball. We need him. We need a lot of those guys."
Arkansas got a solid outing on the mound from freshman left-hander Randall Fant, whose performance was overshadowed by the late game explosives from the plate. The Texarkana native pitched three innings, allowing no hits and just one walk while striking out three in his first career appearance. Fant battled rotator cuff problems throughout the fall and into the preseason.
"I thought we pitched extremely well," Van Horn said. "We were trying to bring Randall along with his first outing. He has a good fastball but wasn't locating it well today. He did have a good changeup and that was really good to see.
"We didn't want to pitch him too much and he didn't hit his 40-pitch limit. He had three solid innings and had the lead when he came out. If he was healthy we would have let him go another three innings but I thought he showed how good his change-up is. He's got a good arm and throws 90 to 91. If he can locate that fastball he could be a force for us this year."
Fellow freshman DJ Baxendale earned his fourth save of the season by pitching three innings, allowing just two hits and striking out four batters.
The bats gave the pitchers plenty of support, scoring a combined 17 runs in the final three innings at the plate. In the big eighth inning Arkansas had 15 at-bats.
"They were down to their last pitchers, and we knew that, but they can still get you out," Van Horn said. "They acted like they wanted to hit and wanted to keep scoring. Nobody wanted to be that last out. It was really good to see."
Arkansas returns to the diamond with a three-game weekend series against Wisconsin-Milwaukee beginning Friday.
Arkansas 21, South Dakota State 2
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