As Dorthy said to her little dog Toto in “The Wizard of Oz,” there’s no place like home.
The No. 6 Arkansas Razorbacks snapped a four-game losing streak — their longest of the season — Thursday in the friendly confines of Baum-Walker Stadium, defeating the Texas A&M Aggies, 7-5.
It wasn’t a raucous crowd by Baum-Walker standards, but the Razorbacks were comfortable enough to deliver a knock-out blows to the Aggies with their fielding, pitching and hitting with the game on the line.
Arkansas (31-11, 12-7 SEC) had lost their previous four games — three last weekend at Georgia and a single game Tuesday at Missouri State — as a series of injuries had left with a jostled lineup in the field and short in the bullpen.
“We’ve been struggling with a lot of injuries…,” Arkansas coach Van Horn said following the game. “It’s just good to get a win.”
Razorback second baseman Peyton Stovall belted a grand slam in the second inning with the Hogs up 1-0, and center fielder Jace Bohrofen swatted a two-run homer in the eighth inning to lift the Hogs over the Aggies (25-17, 9-10 SEC).
Razorback pitcher Hagen Smith pitched four scoreless innings in relief and allowed the Aggies just two hits to shut the door on the Hogs’ longtime rivals.
No. 6 Arkansas (31-11, 12-7 SEC)
Opponent: Texas A&M (25-17, 9-10 SEC)
When: 6 p.m. Friday, April 28
Where: Baum-Walker Stadium, Fayetteville
11 a.m. Saturday — Texas A&M (SEC Network)
6 p.m. Tuesday — Lipscomb at N. Little Rock (No Telecast)
“Hagen has a lot of experience at the end of games,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “He’s come in some tough situations and finished games. He’s been a starter, a reliever. I mean, he knows how to wiggle out of it. He made some really good pitches.”
The game wasn’t particularly efficient for the Razorbacks at the plate as the Hogs stranded 15 runners to the Aggies 8, but ultimately Arkansas got the job done.
“We had a lot of runners out there, but never could get the big hit,” Van Horn said. “Give the A&M pitching staff credit. They worked out of some big jams.”
Van Horn praised Hunter Grimes for his part in the defensive play of the game — perhaps the season — in the eighth inning when he caught a pop fly in right field off Aggie hitter Hunter Haas and then threw out Aggie designated hitter Ryan Targac at home plate for the double-play tag by Parker Rowland.
The outstanding throw and tag denied A&M from taking the lead and swung the momentum back the Razorbacks way when the game was knotted 5-5.
“He used his old infield skills there and made a great throw,” Van Horn said of Grimes. “You know Rowland plays first base, and he laid down that tag.”
In the bottom of the eighth, third baseman Caleb Cali was down in the count, but drew a crucial walk that set the table for Bohrofen’ homer that gave the Hogs a 7-5 lead. Smith went to work in the ninth, making short work of the Aggies.
The Razorbacks got on top in the second inning with Stovall’s grand slam thanks to three walks of Razorback batters that loaded the bases.
The Hogs tacked on another run for a 5-0 lead, but the Aggies made the Hogs sweat with a three-run homer of their own in the fourth along with another run. A&M tied the game at 5 in the fifth and held the momentum until Grimes’ big catch and throw to the plate in the eighth.
Arkansas starter Hunter Holland began strong but appeared to lose velocity as the game went on, which Van Horn verified after the game.
In the middle innings when the Hogs had baserunners but failed to drive them home, Van Horn said the mood in the dugout was dicey.
“Well, we weren’t having wine and cheese. I can tell you that,” Van Horn said. “It wasn’t very fun. It was guys and coaches talking to each other about staying positive.
“I just kept mentioning that we have a four-inning game, and we need to win it. And now we have a three-inning game, and we need to win it. We have to outscore them in the last three. And then I didn’t say much after that. We got out of that bases loaded jam…
“It was really good pitching by both sides there. We had two really good swings, and the last one ended up winning the game.”
The series continues at 6 p.m. with Friday’s game being televised by ESPNU. The final game of the series will be played at 11 a.m. Saturday and be televised by the SEC Network.