Despite recent struggles in the win-loss column, marked improved pitching has been something Arkansas could hang its hat on as a positive.
That trend continued Friday night as Mike Bolsinger turned in his second eight-inning outing in the last three weeks, leading the No. 17 Razorbacks to a 4-3 win at No. 23 Vanderbilt. The series is now tied at a game apiece.
Arkansas snapped a five-game losing streak with the win and broke a string of seven-straight losses to the Commodores. It also served as the 900th career win for Razorback coach Dave Van Horn, who joined LSU's Paul Manieri and South Carolina's Ray Tanner as the only active SEC coaches to reach that milestone.
Arkansas (39-16, 17-12 SEC) couldn't have asked for a better start. Collin Kuhn led off the game with a solo home run off Vanderbilt starting pitcher Taylor Hill to give the Razorbacks a 1-0 lead they would never relinquish.
That lead grew to 2-0 on an Andy Wilkins RBI double to score Brett Eibner in the top of the fourth and to 4-0 on Monk Kreder's two-out, two-run home run later in the inning.
The Commodores (40-14, 16-11) added a run in the bottom half of the fourth on a fielding error by Kreder, but could do little else against Bolsinger. The senior right-hander allowed just four hits and struck out five Vanderbilt batters.
Arkansas pitchers have combined to allow just 34 runs in the last 10 games.
"Their starter didn't make a lot of mistakes," Vanderbilt left fielder Andrew Giobbi said. "He had a lot of good, downhill fastballs and breaking balls. We didn't capitalize when he did make mistakes."
Eibner, who pitched a perfect eighth inning earlier this week at Oklahoma, came in to close out the game for the Razorbacks. He made things interesting by giving up a pair of solo home runs to Aaron Westlake and Giobbi, but got Joe Loftus to fly out to right field to end the game.
"We needed a fourth run, but we were a little bit too late," Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said. "They dominated us with the fastball and we were out of sync for whatever reason."
Arkansas third baseman Zack Cox started the game as the designated hitter for the Razorbacks and went 1-for-2 in his first game since suffering a back injury last Sunday. He left the game, however, prior to the fifth inning. It wasn't immediately known if he reinjured his back or was pulled for precautionary purposes.
The two teams will meet again Saturday in the rubber match of the three-game series. Vanderbilt will start sophomore right-hander Jack Armstrong (7-1, 3.53 ERA) while Arkansas has yet to announce its starter.
The 2:05 p.m. first pitch will be televised by SportSouth and simulcast on Fox Sports Southwest in Northwest Arkansas.
Arkansas 4, Vanderbilt 3
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