FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The No. 25 Arkansas baseball team (6-0) earned a come-from-behind victory Sunday with another explosive eighth inning to claim an 8-3 win over Eastern Illinois (1-6) that completed the Razorbacks’ second sweep in as many series this season.
True freshman centerfielder Andrew Benintendi continued a torrid start to his Razorback career by blasting his first collegiate home run in the bottom of the third. Benintendi took a first-pitch fastball into the visitor’s bullpen in right field for a two-run homer that gave Arkansas a 2-0 lead. He finished the day 2-for-4 at the plate with two RBI and three runs scored. Tyler Spoon recorded three RBI when he broke the game open with a bases-clearing double in the bottom of the eighth. Brett McAfee had two RBI, including a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh that put Arkansas on top 4-3 two batters after Brian Anderson singled to score Benintendi with the tying run.
Junior right-handed pitcher Jacob Stone (2-0) picked up the win for the Razorbacks after 1.2 innings pitched with zero runs allowed. He finished the seventh after being called on with one out and then, after Arkansas had taken a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the inning, retired the Panthers 1-2-3 in the top of the eighth. Freshman Zach Jackson came on in the third inning and threw 3.0 shutout innings while allowing just two hits and striking out three.
Arkansas wraps up its season-opening 10-game home stand with three games against South Alabama next weekend and a Monday matinee against IPFW. Game times for the South Alabama series are 3:05 p.m. Friday, 12:05 p.m. Saturday and 1:05 p.m. Sunday. Arkansas and IPFW are set for a 3:05 p.m. first pitch Monday, March 3.
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Coach Van Horn Quotes
Arkansas Head Coach Dave Van Horn (on the weekend sweep) – “It’s good when you win three games. We learned a lot about our team, and I think our guys are pretty tough. We had another bad inning trying to figure out how to work that bullpen a little bit. Sometimes Sunday can get a bit dicey anyway having to throw a guy or two a second time. We did that and I think they did as well. Offensively, we bounced back. We punched in six runs in our last two at bats. It was an awfully big hit by (RF) Tyler Spoon. When Spoon got up there he wanted to embrace that moment, and I think when he got up there he did a really nice job of laying off the first pitch. Then he got the next one a little lower and hammered it into that (left-center field) gap. We used a lot of players as far as pitchers. The first six games we have used a lot of guys. Maybe one or two more pitchers will get in the game in the future, but it was a good three-game series sweep for us.”
Arkansas Head Coach Dave Van Horn (on RF-Tyler Spoon’s three-RBI double in the 8th) – “I think he wanted that situation. We knew that they were going to intentionally walk (2B) Brian (Anderson) with first base open and so did he. Nobody had to say anything to him. It was kind of like, ‘They think they can get you out more than they can get him out’, which is a good move. It was just great to see him come through. Like I said, he laid of that first pitch that was high and got something down in the zone he could handle. It was big for his confidence, got three more RBI’s right there. I think he almost has double-digit RBIs already, and that is great to see.”
· Andrew Benintendi hit his first collegiate home run with a two-run shot in the bottom of the third inning. The Razorbacks have hit five homers this season after hitting two in the series.
· Andrew Benintendi scored three runs Sunday, tying for the single-game team high this season. Michael Bernal scored three runs Saturday and was the first Razorback with a three-run game since 2012.
· Tyler Spoon recorded his second three-RBI game of the season, tied with Brian Anderson for the most among Razorbacks in 2014.
· Andrew Benintendi, Joe Serrano and Brian Anderson, Arkansas’ 1, 2, and 3 hitters, respectively, in the lineup, have each reached base at least once in all six games this season.
· Arkansas has swept its first two three-game series of the season for the first time since 2011.
· Arkansas’ starting pitchers have allowed three earned runs in 27.2 innings pitched so far this season, an earned-run average of 0.98.
· Arkansas scored 77 percent of its runs in the fifth inning or later during the series, including nine runs in the eighth inning. The Razorbacks scored five in the eighth Saturday to break a 3-3 tie on their way to an 8-3 win and scored four Sunday to open up a 4-3 game.
· Arkansas was hit by a pitch once in Sunday’s game, extending the Razorbacks’ SEC-leading total to 19 through the first six games this season. The Razorbacks have had at least one hit by pitch in every game so far this season. Arkansas was hit by a pitch 36 times in 61 games last season.
· Arkansas took a season-high eight walks Sunday, led by Blake Baxendale with two.
· Arkansas improved to 21-1 all-time against Eastern Illinois. The Razorbacks have won 15 in a row against the Panthers.
How They Scored
· Arkansas 2, Eastern Illinois 0; Bottom 3rd: Andrew Benintendi hit a two-run home run to right field to score Michael Bernal from first base.
· Arkansas 2, Eastern Illinois 1; Top 7th: Brant Valach walked to score Mitch Gasbarro from third base.
· Arkansas 2, Eastern Illinois 3; Top 7th: Demetre Taylor singled through the right side of the infield to score Tyler Schweigert from third base and Caleb Howell from second base.
· Arkansas 3, Eastern Illinois 3; Bottom 7th: Brian Anderson singled up the middle to score Andrew Benintendi from second base.
· Arkansas 4, Eastern Illinois 3; Bottom 7th: Brett McAfee hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score Joe Serrano from third base.
· Arkansas 7, Eastern Illinois 3; Bottom 8th: Tyler Spoon doubled to left-center field to score Michael Bernal from third base, Andrew Benintendi from second base and Brian Anderson from first base.
· Arkansas 8, Eastern Illinois 3; Bottom 8th: Brett McAfee doubled to right-center field to score Tyler Spoon from second base.