BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
Arkansas’ 15-game home winning streak at Baum-Walker Stadium ended with an absolute thud on Friday night.
Alabama blasted four home runs while outhitting Arkansas 22-3 in a 12-1 thrashing of the No. 6 Razorbacks.
Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn saw very little to like in his team’s third straight SEC loss as Alabama starter Ben Hess (4-0) and a pair of relievers handcuffed his team and fanned it 12 times.
“Yeah, it’ll be quick because we didn’t do much,” Van Horn said of his press conference. “Credit to Hess. He was great.
“First inning we had runners at first and second, nobody out with 3, 4 and 5 coming up and we didn’t advance a runner at all. That was a little hard to swallow. Their offense just got after our pitching tonight and we didn’t have an answer.”
Arkansas (21-5, 4-3) has now lost its last three SEC games by a combined score of 38-8 since taking down No. 1 LSU 9-3 in 10 innings last Friday in Baton Rouge.
“You know we’ve got to figure it out,” Van Horn said. “You could point at pitching but you could also point at hitting as well. We haven’t driven in any runs in league play. We’re not hitting very well in league play the last three games.
“So that’s a lot of pressure on pitchers when you’re not scoring and vice versa. The message is we get to try again tomorrow.”
Arkansas outfielder Jace Bohrofen, whose bunt single in the first was one of his team’s three hits, is a team captain and knows he has to rally his team.
“There has probably got to be something said,” Bohrofen said. “Basically getting run-ruled the last three games, probably got to say something.
“I know we didn’t come out and play the way we wanted to, but give credit to them. They’re a really good team, veteran team. They’ve got a lot of hitters, a good pitching staff as well. It’s just one day. Series is up for grabs tomorrow as well. So, I know I’ll get my guys motivated, and we’ll go win the series either tomorrow or Sunday.”
Alabama head coach Brad Bohanon, whose team has won three of its last four games with Arkansas dating back to last season, was understandably happy about Friday’s result.
His team’s 22 hits were the most by an opposing team since Van Horn took over at Arkansas in 2003.
”I think it was just our night,” Bohannon said. “It was one of those nights where we just hit a lot of balls hard and everything that we hit found a hole.
“We pitched great. Ben Hess gave us a really good start and Hagan Banks was outstanding in relief.
“When you out hit a team 22-3, that just doesn’t happen.”
Alabama took a 1-0 lead in the second when former Razorback Dominic Tamez delivered an RBI single against Arkansas starting pitcher Hunter Hollan (4-1).
The Crimson Tide had a chance to add more in the second, but came up empty when it left the bases loaded.
Hollan had pitched 5 1/3 innings at LSU in the Razorbacks win, but struggled on this Friday.
He have up 7 runs on 10 hits, fanned four and walked one before leaving with no outs in the fifth.
“I’ll kind of have to watch the video,” Van Horn said. “I need a better angle. I don’t know where those pitches were but they seemed to be on him pretty good, whether it was a fastball or a cutter. Even some other type off-speed pitches, when he made a mistake they hit him hard.
“It seemed like they had a runners on two pitches in every inning. We just pick a guy off second, get out of a little jam there, thought maybe we were going to flip the switch a little bit there.
“But Hess just came out and pounded the zone, got ahead of us. Swing and miss a lot and you saw what happened.
Tavian Josenberger’s fifth homer of the season – a solo blast in the fourth off Hess – tied if 1-1.
Alabama responded by scoring three runs in the fourth and five in the fifth to go up 9-1.
“I have used the word maturity with this group a lot,” Bohannon said. “It is a really mature group. They probably handle the ups and downs at times a little better than I do.
“I was sitting there in the bottom of the third having the thoughts that you had – we should be up 3-0 and this game should not be a tight game right now relative to the amount of hard contact we had had.”
Hess (4 innings, 1 run and 5 strikeouts), Hagen Banks (4 hitless innings, 5 Ks) and Connor Ball, who pitched the ninth and gave up the Razorbacks’ third hit to Peyton Stovall, manned the mound for Alabama (21-6, 3-4).
“I don’t know if Hess was quite as sharp as he had been, but that is a compliment to how good he is,” Bohannon said. “He went four innings and gave up one run. We’ll take that every single time.
“And Banksy was just awesome. His tempo and he was peppering in the strikes. He gets the ball and like 10 seconds later and it is an 0-2 count. It is a great model for the rest of our kids to smother the opponent with strikes.”
Van Horn brought in freshman Gage Wood for an inning while Austin Ledbetter was able to pitch 3 2/3 innings and Zack Morris got the final Alabama out.
There were eight Alabama players with at least two hits on Friday night while four had a trio of them.
“I know that they’re not happy,” Van Horn said. “What I’m trying to do is save some guys, try to win tomorrow. When you’re getting hammered, you just kind of let it roll sometimes and let it go. We’ve still got two to play.”
Arkansas will start Will McEntire (4-1, 5.23) on Saturday with Hagen Smith (4-0, 1.97) ready to come on in relief if needed or start on Sunday.
Both of those games are slated for 2 p.m. starts.
Photo by John D. James