FAYETTEVILLE – Drew Smyly returned in dominant fashion for Arkansas Saturday.
Smyly pitched seven innings of one-run baseball to lead the No. 10 Razorbacks to a 10-1 win over Kentucky at Baum Stadium, tying the three-game series at a game apiece.
"We needed to get seven or eight innings out of him and obviously he gave us seven quality innings" Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said.
"We put together three good innings in a row and executed things. They have a very good team and we knew that we needed to keep scoring runs because they could make a move on us."
Smyly didn't allow a hit in his first three innings on the mound and didn't allow a run until an RBI single with two out in the seventh inning. On the day he gave up four hits and walked seven batters, and struck out five.
Like usual, Smyly worked out of several jams, stranding nine Kentucky runners, including the bases loaded in the fourth inning.
"It always gets under your skin when you give up leadoff walks because you don't want that to happen," Smyly said. "When it does happen you've got to shake it off and go to the next batter, just bear down and compete. You don't want them to cross the plate, but keep it at zero."
It was Smyly's first start in two weeks after a blister on his throwing hand forced him to miss his scheduled start last Sunday against Alabama.
"It's still there," Smyly said. "I had to compete and work through it. It just really hurts some when I throw a fastball, so I had to mix speeds and change pitches to keep them off-balance."
Arkansas (21-6, 5-3 SEC) took the lead in the third inning, first on a Zack Cox RBI single followed two batters later by an Andy Wilkins two-RBI double to extend the lead to 3-0.
Wilkins likely would have easily legged out a triple on the hit, but pulled up rounding first base, eventually falling to his knees and crawling the final few feet to second base. Van Horn said the preliminary prognosis is a pulled hamstring, though an MRI will be done to make sure it isn't a more serious injury.
"He'll probably be out at least 10 days," Van Horn said. "I don't see him playing next week against Mississippi State. If he can, that'd be great, but it'll probably be closer to two weeks from what I was told.
"We've got a few guys that can play first base but I'm just not sure if they're ready to play first base."
The Razorbacks added three more runs on a three-run Collin Kuhn home run in the fourth inning to extend the lead to 6-0. It was Kuhn's fifth home run of the season.
That grew to 10-0 in the fifth inning as Arkansas twice loaded the bases with nobody out in the inning. Travis Sample had a two-run single in the inning, followed by an RBI single from James McCann. Tim Carver capped the scoring in the fifth after initially appearing to be caught stealing. A wild throw from Kentucky reliever Jordan Cooper to third baseman Luke Maile allowed Carver to score.
Sample, who made just his second start of the season in right field, finished the game 3-for-4 at the plate.
"He did a great job," Van Horn said. "He made some plays in the field but he also swung the bat. That's what we were looking for."
Jordan Pratt pitched the final two innings for the Razorbacks, getting out of the eighth with one of Arkansas' two double plays on the day and sat the Wildcats (20-8, 2-6) down in order in the ninth.
The two teams will meet again Sunday for the rubber match of the three-game series. Arkansas will pitch junior right-hander Brett Eibner while the Wildcats will send sophomore right-hander Alex Meyer to the mound.
Arkansas 10, Kentucky 1
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