FAYETTEVILLE –Sophomore left-hander Drew Smyly threw seven scoreless innings and struck out a season-high 11 batters Saturday as No. 14 Arkansas beat Wisconsin-Milwaukee 7-0, marking the program's 300th win at Baum Stadium.
Smyly's performance was similar to a near no-hitter he threw in an NCAA regional last May at Oklahoma in which he recorded 25 outs without a hit and struck out 12 batters. Saturday was Arkansas' first shutout since that game.
"He threw good today," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "He was all over the zone and was putting the ball where he wanted to – in and out.
"He threw right at 100 pitches in seven innings and that's where we wanted him. It was a pretty good tune-up to get him ready for next weekend."
The Little Rock Central product was almost flawless through three innings, allowing no hits as Arkansas (11-3) steadily built a 2-0 lead, first on a Bo Bigham RBI double in the second inning and then a Collin Kuhn solo home run in the third.
Smyly gave up a double to lead off the fourth inning, starting a trend for the rest of the game. He gave up a leadoff hit in each of his final four innings on the mound but worked out of the jams unscathed. He finished allowing just four hits in the game.
"Last year it was hard for me to get out of some of those," Smyly said. "I feel like I'm a little more experienced and it's been a little easier for me to get out of jams.
"My arm felt real good and I felt like I was getting stronger throughout the game. I've always felt like if I get through the first three innings I'll be OK."
Smyly (2-0) got great support from his defense. Like Andy Wilkins did the day before, Bigham made a spectacular defensive play in the middle innings to preserve the Razorback lead.
With runners on second and third and two outs, Milwaukee designated hitter Sam Sivilotti smoked a ball right at Bigham's second base position. Playing with a torn labrum, Bigham made a diving stop his right, jumped to his feet and made a throw to first just in front of the runner's tag.
"If he doesn't make that play the game is 2-2 and momentum swings over to them a little bit," Van Horn said. "Defense will win you a lot of games. We made some good plays last night and that was definitely the biggest play today."
Arkansas' bats woke up in the sixth inning, scoring four runs to put the game out of reach. Wilkins extended the lead to 5-0 with a 2-run home run and the Razorbacks added another run on one of two Panther errors in the inning.
It was a disappointing ending for Milwaukee (4-7) pitcher Chad Pierce, a former Razorback who pitched 6 2/3 innings in his return to the Baum Stadium mound, allowing just two earned runs.
"He did a great job," Van Horn said. "He kept us off-balance throwing a lot of change-ups and spotting his fastball and an occasional breaking ball. He gave them a chance."
The two teams will meet for the final game of the weekend series Sunday with the first pitch scheduled for 1:05 p.m. Brett Eibner (2-1) will get the starting nod on the mound for the Razorbacks.
Zack Cox fires to first base for a putout.
Collin Kuhn hit his second home run of the season.
DJ Baxendale finished off the shutout for the Hogs with two innings of relief.
Former Razorback Chad Pierce gave WMU a little over six strong innings on the mound.
Bo Bigham made a sparkling play in the field.
Photos by Marc F. Henning
Arkansas 7, Wisconsin-Milwaukee 0
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