In just a matter of minutes on Thursday night, Arkansas’ game with Texas A&M turned on Hunter Grimes’ arm, Parker Rowland’s tag and Jace Bohrofen’s bat.
The result of those eighth-inning heroics were the No. 7 Razorbacks – who had coughed up a 5-0 second-inning lead – taking a 7-5 win over the Aggies at Baum-Walker Stadium.
It ended a four-game losing streak for head coach Dave Van Horn’s Razorbacks (31-11, 12-7) and came in the opener of a three-game series with the Aggies (25-17, 9-10).
“It was a big win for us,” Van Horn said of a team battling injuries. “I mean, you look at the lineup, there’s a lot of names people don’t recognize too much. They haven’t played a lot. They played good. They played just good enough.
“But it was a big win for us. It’s hard losing in league, it’s hard losing the way we lost in Game 3 over there (at Georgia) with a four-run lead, didn’t get an out, and they beat us. Tonight to have it kind of flip and go our way, it was big for our team.”
Hagen Smith (6-1) got the win by pitching four scoreless innings to finish the game while allowing two hits and two walks and fanning four while throwing 70 pitches.
Smith saw the win as important to not only end the skid, but set the tone for the weekend against a Texas A&M team that has won its last four SEC series.
“Yeah, I mean it was huge,” Smith said. “I mean, no one wants to lose four in a row, so I mean, for us to get a win Thursday is really big for the weekend.”
Grimes caught a ball and unleashed a bullet throw from left field that Rowland grabbed and quickly tagged out Ryan Targac to end the inning.
“I felt like he got a really good read on the ball,” Van Horn said. “He had a lot of momentum moving towards the plate. He kind of got around the ball a little bit. He used his former infield skills there to get rid of that ball really fast. And he kind of short-armed, darted it and made a perfect throw. Played the angle a little bit and the ball hit the grass and shot to the catcher.
“Great play. Great tag. I felt like Rowland, he also plays first base and he showed a little bit of that right there. He just popped that tag down. It was great.”
Grimes noted it was the first runner he had thrown out at home in his college career, which also included three years at Texas-San Antonio – one a redshirt campaign – and a season at McClennan Community College.
“I haven’t thrown a guy out at the plate from the outfield,” Grimes said. “But recently I’ve kind of transitioned to the outfield. It was kind of middle of last year at McLennan and this year I’ve transitioned to the outfield and I’ve felt pretty comfortable with it.”
Grimes, filling in for injured Arkansas outfielders Jared Wagner and Tavian Josenberger, commented on his mindset going into the play.
“It was kind of hit in the left-center gap and the main goal was to try to get in front of it and catch it and then make a strong throw to the plate,” Grimes said.
Bohrofen was in center field and had a great look at the play.
“Yeah, I mean that was awesome,”Bohrofen said. “ I don’t think people realize how tough of a play that is, given that he had to go all the way to his left and he’s a right-handed thrower having to move his body back and square up to the plate. And putting an absolute dot there, I mean that’s unbelievable.
Smith, who worked out of a no-out runner at third jam in the seventh and the aforementioned eighth-inning second and third with one out situation, was extremely grateful for the play.
“I was running to back up home and I kind of just saw the ball coming in and I saw Parker tag and I was like ‘Holy Cow,’” Smith said.
After Rowland walked to open the bottom of the eighth, Bohrofen launched his 11th blast off the season.
Bohrofen went 3 for 4 on Thursday night to up his average to a team-leading .371 and how now tied Wegner for the team lead in herd and upped his RBI total to 35.
“Caleb Cali comes up, draws an awesome walk to even put me in the position to get us a two-run lead,” Bohrofen said. “I knew when they brought that lefty in that he was probably going to spin.
“First pitch was a fastball up. I kind of got outside of my approach. But I stuck with it. I was just going to sit on a slider or something. Luckily he hung one over the plate.”
Arkansas took a 5-0 lead in the second on John Bolton’s bases-loaded infield single and Peyton Stovall’s grand slam of Texas A&M lefty starting pitcher Troy Wansing.
Stovall thought he had drawn a bases-loaded walk, but made the most of the next pitch by hitting his fifth homer of the season and clearing the bases.
He is hitting .261 and pushed his RBI total to 30 with his round tripper.
“On Stovall’s, obviously that was huge,” Van Horn said. “We’d already scored one, and the hitter before him didn’t get a run in, and that was disappointing. So then it was up to him with two outs.
“It wasn’t just about making contact then, he had to get a hit or they had to make an error or walk or whatever. It was a 1-0 count, and he swings at a ball in the dirt, and you’re thinking, ‘Wow. Left on left.’
“He fought his way back into the count. I think he fought off a 3-2 pitch and then got, I think it was a 3-2 slider. The first one was a fastball, then that was a slider. I mean, he just got extended on it and popped it up there on the roof. Just a really good job staying on the ball left on left.”
Wansing walked the bases loaded with three consecutive one-out walks before ninth place hitter Bolton’s run-scoring single.
It came on a night when Texas A&M outhit Arkansas 10-9, but six Aggie pitchers walked 14 Razorbacks batters and the home team stranded 15 runners.
“We walked 14 guys first of all against a club that was without some of their better players,” Texas A&M head coach Jim Schlossnagle said.
Texas A&M’s Jordan Thompson hit a three-run homer off Arkansas starting pitcher Hunter Hollan in the fourth and Hunter Hass’ solo blast cut it to 5-4 in what was Hollan’s final inning.
Holland gave up four runs on six hits, walked two and fanned one while throwing 83 pitches, 53 for strikes.
“His velocity was down,” Van Horn said. “He wasn’t super sharp. They were on him pretty good. We were dodging bullets there for a little bit, and then they got us with the three-run homer.
“I really don’t know what to say, just that he’s been better. Yeah, I’ll just leave it at that. He’s not having any issues with his arm or anything, though.”
Austin Bost’s sacrifice fly against Razorback reliever Dylan Carter – who Van Horn said was sore – tied it 5-5 in the fifth before Smith was summoned.
“We fought back in the game,” Schlossnagle said. “ I thought both teams expended a lot to try and win the game. They threw Carter and Smith and we threw (Brandyn) Garcia and Will Johnston – two of our back end relievers – to try and win the ball game.”
Schlossnagle lamented that fact his team didn’t take advantages of its runners on base in the seventh and eighth.
“We had a runner at third and nobody out and Smith pitches his way out of it,” Schlossnagle said of the seventh. “We had second and third with one out (in the eighth) and the left fielder made a great throw. Awesome play.
“But that’s life in this league. It’’s just razor thin.”
The two teams are scheduled to meet again Friday night at 6 p.m. in game televised by ESPNU and Saturday morning at 11 a.m. on the SEC Network.