Arkansas sophomore Casey Martin / Photo: ArkansasRazorbacks.com
The No. 17 Arkansas Razorbacks moved to 4-0 on the season late Thursday with a solid 6-3 victory over the Southern California Trojans at Dedeaux Field in Los Angeles.
The Hogs benefitted from timely hitting early and fine defensive work throughout the game to pin down the Trojans (2-2) in the first game of a three-game series that continues tonight at 8 (CT) with Razorback junior Isaiah Campbell (1-0) on the mound.
The third game is set for 8 p.m. (CT) Saturday with freshman Connor Noland scheduled for his second start of the season. Both can be streamed live at https://pac-12.com/live/usc.
Who: at USC
When: Feb. 21, 22, 23
Where: Los Angeles, Calif.
Watch: ESPN App Stream
Kole Ramage (2-0) got the win for the Razorbacks with Quentin Longrie (0-1) suffering the loss for the Trojans. Senior closer Matt Cronin garnered his first save this year, striking out the final four Trojan batters of the game while pitching the final 1 1/3 innings.
Arkansas jumped to a 6-0 lead with three runs in the second, two in the third, and another in the fourth before pitching-control issues allowed the Trojans to make a game of it with three unearned runs in the bottom of the fourth.
Sophomore All-American candidate Casey Martin made the most of three Arkansas baserunners in the second inning when he turned on a two-out, two-strike fast ball that nearly cleared the wall for a bases-cleaning double.
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said Martin punished the ball in a radio interview following the game.
“He’s the guy you want up there,” Van Horn said of Martin. “He can beat you with his feet and his bat. He can mishit balls and beat them out. He just makes things happen. He’s pretty electric.”
Sophomore right fielder Heston Kjerstad and senior first baseman Trevor Ezell each had two hits for Arkansas with junior center fielder Dominic Fletcher, sophomore designated hitter Matt Goodheart, and sophomore catcher Casey Opitz adding a hit apiece. Freshman left fielder Christian Franklin drew three walks and scored two runs.
However, excellent defense and solid pitching allowed the Razorbacks to maneuver through the final five innings unscathed. Franklin, of Overland Park, Kan., made a diving stab near the left-field line of a low line drive to end the fifth inning.
Fellow freshman third baseman Jacob Nesbit, of Coppell, Texas, corralled a hot-hit ball on the third base line in the eighth before throwing out the runner at first to garner the second out and holding a runner at second from scoring.
In his first start of the year, Cody Scroggins pitched well into the fourth inning, striking out eight batters before he ran into some control problems. Scroggins left the bases loaded for Patrick Wicklander, a freshman from San Jose, Calif., who also struggled allowing all three of the Trojans runs to score with two walks and a hit batter.
Ramage came in to slam the door on USC’s rally, striking out the first batter he faced. He threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings through the middle with two strikeouts and just two hits to win his second game of the season.
In the postgame radio interview, Van Horn complimented Scroggins, a junior from Bentonville, for his start and allowed that he let him go too far past his pitch count.
“I thought he did a great job,” Van Horn said of Scroggins. “He gave us almost four solid innings. He pitched great. He threw his fastball for a strike. He had his changeup going, which he used against the lefties a lot. I’d give him the ball on a Friday night. I liked what I saw.”
Hoop Hogs need to halt 4-game losing streak
Arkansas freshman Reggie Chaney / Photo: ArkansasRazorbacks.com
If the Arkansas Razorbacks ever faced a must-win situation in a regular-season basketball game, it would be Saturday at 7:30 p.m. when the Hogs play host to Texas A&M at 7:30 p.m. in Walton Arena.
Coach Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks (14-12, 5-8 SEC) are in the midst of an ugly four-game losing streak that has Hog fans far and wide wondering about the direction and future of the program. Fair or not, many if not most Razorback fans believe the program should be in a better situation during Anderson’s eighth season as coach regardless of the circumstances.
While a victory over the Aggies (11-14, 4-9) Saturday wouldn’t be a cure-all for what is ailing the Razorbacks, it would halt the bleeding for a few days. That may be little consolation with Arkansas facing a trip to Rupp Arena to meet the Kentucky Wildcats (22-4, 11-2) on Tuesday.
The Razorbacks beat the Aggies, 73-71, in their SEC opener at College Station, but the Hogs played so poorly at Auburn in a 79-56 loss Wednesday that faith among fans who populate social media and rant and lament on radio call-in shows seems to be at an all-time low.
Who: vs. Texas A&M
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23
Where: Bud Walton Arena
Watch: SEC Network
As dire as the Razorbacks’ situation seems to be, the Hogs are in a position to rally if enough gas remains in the tank and the players take to their coaching..
The Razorbacks play three of their final five games in the friendly confines of Walton Arena —Saturday’s game with the Aggies, a March 2 date with Ole Miss (18-8, 8-5), and the March 9 regular-season finale against Alabama (15-11, 6-7). Playing in Walton Arena offers no guarantee of a victory, but it should give the Razorbacks a puncher’s chance if there is any fight left in the squad.
Though the trip to Kentucky is daunting no matter how red your Razorback-colored glasses are, the March 6 trip to Nashville to face Vanderbilt (9-17, 0-13) should still feel like an opportunity for Arkansas.
As much as a stretch as it may seem, three Razorback home wins combined with a road win at Vanderbilt would put the Hogs in the hunt for a NIT bid going into the SEC Tournament, held March 13-17 in Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.
Is such an outcome likely?
Based on the Razorbacks’ recent play, probably not. But, a little hope isn’t a bad thing to promote going into what is shaping up to be a stormy weekend.