BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON

If Arkansas goes on to win a share or the outright SEC Western Division title this weekend, the Razorbacks will likely look back on Thursday night’s five-run fifth inning in Alabama.

After Chris Lanzilli broke up a no-hitter leading off the frame, Peyton Stovall launched a two-out, two-run homer and  Cayden Wallace followed with a a three-run blast that lifted the Razorbacks to a 7-3 win over the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa.

“All of a sudden we’re up two,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “The game just flipped. We played solid defense, and pitched just good enough. It was a good win on the road.”


The outburst came after Arkansas, tied for first place in the division, had gone scoreless for 12 consecutive innings dating back to Sunday’s 5-0 loss to Vanderbilt.

“We laid off some borderline pitches and got ahead in the count a little bit,” Van Horn said. “Lanzilli getting a base hit kind of broke the ice. We hit some balls hard … Stovall went down and got a 3-1 pitch and stayed through it, kept it low. The wind was blowing in from right. And it just kind of fought throw the wind. He hit it hard and it got out of there pretty easy.”

Van Horn said he was not worried about the early deficit.

“We felt like we’ve been down, what, five runs three games in a row?,” Van Horn said. “… We were due. Guys stayed real positive. We had a real good pregame BP and hit well yesterday. There was a lot of focus.”

Jalen Battles added a two-run, two-out double in the ninth and capped the scoring. All of Arkansas’ runs came with two outs.


“It was big,” Van Horn said. “Five of the runs were driven in by home runs. The last two with a big two-out double with two strikes on the hitter. What a relief when that ball headed to the gap. It gave us a three-run lead, then all of a sudden a four-run lead. It took a lot of pressure off the team and (closer) Brady (Tygart) out there. Just a really good job.”

The win in the opener of the three-game series kept Arkansas (38-14, 18-10) tied atop the division with Texas A&M, who beat Ole Miss 10-5 Thursday night in Oxford, and owns the tiebreaker with the Razorbacks.

It also clinched a first-round bye for the Razorbacks in next week’s SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala.

“Well, that’s good,” Van Horn said. “I hadn’t really thought about that until you just said it. It’s hard to finish in the top four. It’s nice to know that we’ll go to Hoover and play two games. We win a game, we get to play another. Win a couple of them, get a bye. Just play baseball this time of year.

“I tell the guys, this should be your favorite time of year. You don’t have to worry about getting up, taking a test, studying. You can just play baseball focused in, get your sleep, lift. Let’s see how long we can play.”

Alabama head coach Brad Bohannon pointed to the one inning that got away from Crimson Tide stater Garrett McMillan, who did not allow a base runner though the first 12 batters he faced.

“The  first four innings were outstanding,” Bohannon said. “There were four no-hit innings and we scored in the second and the fourth. But we probably left a little meat on the bone by not getting another run or two.

“We did a lot of good things tonight. We put up seven zeros and Jake Leger was really good behind McMillian. But the difference in the game was really when Arkansas had people on base, they hit two homer s and a double and when we did, we hit singles.”

Bohannon was planing on looking at video for a better explanation of what went wrong in the fifth.

“I think I would have to go back and watch the video and see if there was anything different than what I saw for the dugout,” Bohannon said. “But typically you want all of your pitchers to be ahead in the count as much as possible. Typically Garrett is okay in neutral counts and even behind a little bit because of his secondary stuff and he is really good throwing strikes then.

“I don’t know if he left the ball over the plate or they just put some good swings on it. That was the difference in the game for sure.”

Prized freshmen Stovall returned to the line up after missing several games with a hand injury.

“All of his at bats were good,” Van Horn said. “He really had a good at bat. Even that last one there in the eighth, when he worked that lefty to a full count, fouled off a couple pitches and then took strike three. I think he came in on him. I think he was away the whole time. I’m not sure. But his at bats were good. Looked like he was confident and that’s what we want to see. He was a tough out tonight.”

Arkansas starter Will McEntire, making his first SEC start, pitched the first four innings and was followed to the mound by Kole Ramage, Evan Taylor and  Tygart, who combined to pitch five scoreless frames.

“If you’d have told me he could give us four innings and give up two runs I would have taken it,” Van Horn said.  Because I’m thinking we’re going to score two runs in four innings. He gave up some hits, but three of them were balls that it was super hard right in front of their plate and it was like hitting a super ball. They pounded two balls straight into the ground that went over Wallace’s head at third.”

Taylor was pitching close to his hometown of Florence, Ala.

“I really didn’t think about it until he went out for the second inning,” Van Horn said. “I thought ‘he lives not too far from here. Hopefully he stays under control.’ He’s really grown up as a player, as a person. He’s calm on the mound but intense. He doesn’t show a lot of emotion. He’s been really good for us.”

Arkansas will send out Connor Noland to pitch on Friday night  with Jackson Wiggins slated to go Saturday.

Freshman Hagen Smith, who has been a starter all season, will be available in relief.

“Our thought process basically was that we’ll have Connor stay on his regular Friday night, get his rest,” Van Horn  said. “ Hopefully he’ll give us some good innings. The last couple of outings haven’t really been typical Connor, so we wanted to get him back on track. And then also let Smith rest a little bit. Probably going to use him out of the bullpen one of the next two days, and then Smith will get a start in the tournament. That was kind of our thinking.”

Alabama will send out senior right hander Jacob  McNairy for Friday night’s 7 p.m. game.

“Jacob has been outstanding the last month,” Bohannon said. “He is fourth-year guy that knows what he is doing out there. He throws a lot of strikes just like McMillian. Typically he slows the game tonight and gives us a chance to win.”