University of Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard finally got around to intentionally walking red-hot University of Arkansas slugger Zack Cox in the ninth inning of Saturday's game at Baum Stadium.
By then, Cox had done all the damage Gaspard needed to see and he had a great view of pinch-hitter Thomas Hauskey's RBI single that gave the Razorbacks a 4-3 win over the Crimson Tide.
Cox – who is batting .427 this season and is riding a 22-game hitting streak - drove in six runs in Arkansas' 9-8 win on Friday night and tied Saturday's game with a grounder up the middle of the diamond.
"Cox is one of the best players not only in this league, but in the country," Gaspard said. "Not only is he a great player, but he is playing great right now and kind of having THAT year."
Cox, who Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn described as a scary hitter right now, has still been pitched to because of the threat that Andy Wilkins presents behind him.
First base was open in ninth and Gaspard gladly put Cox on with Collin Kuhn stationed at second after his double.
Wilkins – who had two hits - lined out deep to center while moving to Kuhn to third, Hauskey came through.
"It seems like those guys always come up and deliver," That is a nice combination back-to-back with Cox and Wilkins because Wilkins is really dangerous, too.
"He (Wilkins) has kind of been up and down a little bit, but he is kind of right there with him because he can run a ball out of ballpark in a heartbeat and split a gap. That is a really, really good back-to-back combination they have in the middle of the line up."
Cox is now just 8 games behind tying Randy Bobb's school record of 30 games and says he wouldn't be thinking about it, but he can't get away from it.
"Everybody reminds me every day," Cox said. "So it doesn't really matter (if I'm thinking about it). Everybody is telling me."
It sure didn't look early as if the Razorbacks (17-5, 3-2) were going to be able to solve the Crimson Tide (16-5, 2-3) on Saturday.
Alabama pitcher Jimmy Nelson did not allow his first hit until the sixth inning with Cox extending his streak in the breakthrough seventh.
"I wasn't really sure how good he was, but he came out and showed me how good he was when he went six scoreless," Cox said. "I don't know how long it was but we didn't even have a hit for most of the game. We showed a lot of heart coming back today. That's big for us."
Cox says the two come-from-behind wins show a lot about his team and that it has just taken his team a little time to get going each game.
"I would like to think it is the will to win," Cox said. "…I don't like to lose and I think this team is becoming a winning team. Hitting is contagious. The momentum started swinging a little bit our way (Friday night) and today it came our way and we came out with two wins."
O o o
Van Horn's Razorbacks will try for the sweep in a Sunday 1:05 p.m. game.
"First off, it is great winning the series already," Van Horn said. "We have been behind a lot this year and it seems like our offense takes one or two times through the order to get it going. Tomorrow we have a chance to sweep at home and we will just come out and try to do what we do."
It is the first time in four years that Arkansas has won the regular season series with Alabama, but Cox says that is not enough.
"It is good, but still we are only 3-2 in conference and if we lose tomorrow we are just .500," Cox said. "We need to come out and sweep."
O o o
Arkansas will go for the sweep on Sunday at 1:05, but will not be starting Drew Smyly (2-0, 1.73) per Van Horn.
Smyly had to leave the LSU game last Saturday because of a blister.
"I don't know if Smyly is pitching yet," Van Horn said. "I don't think he is going to start. We will just figure it out from here and do the best we can."
The probable starter is true freshman lefty Randall Fant (1-0, 1.50 ERA), who was a 21st round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox last June.
He did not pitch in the fall and has been limited to 2 appearances and six innings total this season in a pair of Tuesday night starts.
O o o
Arkansas' rally made a winner out of Razorback relief pitcher Jordan Pratt (1-0) who made it four straight relievers to get the win in UA victories.
T.J. Forrest sandwiched wins out of the pen around Christian Kowalchuk's decision.
"I thought he came in and did a nice job," Van Horn said. "He went 2-0 on the first hitter and they were taking and he threw a strike and he kind of got it going there.
"Really in the ninth he went through them with a jam-shot single that should have really been scored an error," Van Horn added. "He got out of it and we got a chance to go into the bottom of the ninth with a chance to win."
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