BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
The Arkansas bats were on full display again Saturday at Baum-Walker Stadium, but it was a glove that deserved the most love.
Jace Bohrofen’s leaping catch of what would have been a Wright State second-inning grand slam was the most dazzling play on a day when the Razorbacks downed the Raiders 12-6.
Bohrofen’s web gem came during a contest where Peyton Stovall and Jared Wegner both homered for the third game in a row for Arkansas (7-2), who downed Wright State 12-2 on Friday.
“It was a great play,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “We are going to be down 4-2…When the ball was hit, we didn’t, I didn’t, think the ball was going out. But the ball was really traveling to right field today.
“The wind was kind of swirling and I guess pushing from the north to northeast. That’s the way the wind was blowing at the time and that ball just kept going and going and Jace got to the wall and did a great job.
“He drove in some runs with his bat, but also saved us four with his glove.”
Bohrofen, who was 2 for 3 at the plate with a pair of RBIs and boosted his average to .357, was confident that he was going to make the play.
“Yeah, I knew I had it,” Bohrofen said. “I took a step back, opened up to the right and I was like, ‘Alright that’s going to be close to the track, so I’ve got to go find the wall.’
“So I got to the wall and I thought I was just going to catch it on the wall. And then I saw it kind of kept drifting and I was like alright I’m about to go up and get it. So I went up and stuck my glove up there and I caught it and I came down and I knew I had it. Just pretty excited for it.”
Bohrofen admitted he didn’t think that kind of play was going to be needed when the ball cane off the bat.
“No, it didn’t,” Bohrofen said. “The wind actually shifted. I think it was kind of no wind or maybe a little win to start, kind of blowing towards the first of the game. And then once the second inning came around it started shifting towards that corner. And so I think that kind of had a little bit to do with it, why it kind of carried. But I mean, I just made a good play on it.”
The beneficiary of the sparkling play was Arkansas starting and winning pitcher Will McEntire (2-0), who would go five innings while allowing three runs (one unearned) on eight hits, fanning six and walking three.
“I was going crazy on the mound,” McEntire said. “I told him I owe him dinner.”
Arkansas third baseman Caleb Cali admitted he was just caught admiring the theft.
“Yeah it was obviously really big,” Cali said. “I didn’t even move. I just stood there and just watched to see his reaction. He was pretty pumped up so I knew he had it. That was a big moment.”
Arkansas jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning off Wright State starting pitcher Sebastian Gongora when Stovall hit a two-run homer and Bohrofen had an RBI single.
Gongora (1-1), who allowed one hit and two runs in a win at Kentucky in his last start, lasted just one inning after having back issues and throwing 24 pitches.
“That’s what we did really well,” Van Horn said. “We got after a pitcher that has has had a lot of success this year, He’s beat an SEC team already on the road and I felt like we were all over him. We were on his fastball, laying off his breaking ball and took some really good swings and got his pitch count up.
“We only scored two runs but I think we gained a lot of confidence in that first inning. I don’t know when he hurt his back, if it was in the first inning or locked up after the inning. But I would have liked to have seen him come back and how we were going to handle it.
“I am always thinking about league play and how we are going to handle good pitchers like that in the league.”
Bohrofen’s robbery led to a five-run bottom of the second as Stovall delivered a run-scoring single, Cali had a two-run single and the Razorbacks also scored on two bases-loaded walks to go ahead 7-0.
Cali, Stovall, Wegner, Bohrofen, Tavian Josenberger and Jayson Jones all had 2 of Arkansas’ 14 hit on the day.
Jay Luikart got Wright State on the board with a solo homer in the top third, but Wegner answered that with a two-run bomb of his own as to make it 9-1.
Wegner, a transfer from Creighton is leading Arkansas in average (.444), home runs (5) and RBIs (18).
Stovall started the season 4 of 20, but is 8 of his last 14, has upped his batting average to .353 and has three home runs and 10 RBIs.
“Well, they’re both swinging the bat really good,” Van Horn said. “They’re hitting just about everything that’s thrown out them. Breaking balls, fastballs.
“Jared’s gone opposite field, pulled the ball. Peyton’s hit them in the alley, hit them down the line. He’s swinging the bat well. Both of them are swinging the ball really well.”
Arkansas did not have a 1-2-3 inning in any of its at bats and all starters reached base at least once.
“I feel like we fight them pretty good,” Van Horn said. “We foul off a lot off pitches and haven’t had too many 1-2-3 innings…I just feel like most of the time we are going to see some pitches and hit some balls hard. I felt like we did that again today.”
That included freshman Jayson Jones, who fanned with the bases loaded his first two times at the plate Saturday, but then homered and double his last two of five at bats.
“Well, it didn’t go very well at the beginning,” Van Horn said. “I think it finished well, obviously. His first two at-bats, he had the bases loaded with less than two outs and didn’t drive in a run. So, that was disappointing. And then after that, I think he had enough, and then he basically hammered the first-pitch fastball out of the park.
“I think he grounded out to second the third at-bat, but then he went one out of the park. And then he fought off a tough pitch and just muscled it over the first baseman’s head. It was good to see, good for his confidence. Looked like, to me, he grabbed a little bit of an attitude in the middle of the game like he had enough and it was time to do something, and he did. That was really good to see.”
McEntire threw 96 pitches in his five innings with 63 of them being strikes.
“Honestly, we were hoping for a minimum of six today,” Van Horn said. “He had a couple of innings where he threw 20 plus pitches, it seemed like. If he cuts down a little bit there, he might have been able to give us seven.
“The thing was, they weren’t scoring, but he was throwing a lot of pitches. He was full count on everybody. Foul ball, foul ball, out, walk, base hit or whatever happened.
“It’s just too many pitches. He’s more of an attack you, get ahead of you, pitch to contact type guy. Strikeouts are great, but try to get weak contact. That’s what we’d rather see.”
McEntire turned it over to his fellow Bryant alum Austin Ledbetter, who three innings of scoreless one hit baseball, before Jake Feherty (who allowed three runs and got two outs before coming up injured) and Ben Bybee came on to get the final out.”
Van Han was pleased with Ledbetter’s outing while he threw 24 strikes among his 33 pitches in the trio of frames.
“I made a comment after the game, kind of pumped him up, that’s the pitcher we need,” Van Horn said. “ Some of our older guys haven’t come back throwing like they threw last year. You’d think they’d be there or a little better, but they’ll get there. I feel like they will.
“Yeah, he could take a middle relief role, maybe even a midweek starter role. I mean, there’s different things there we could do. He’s versatile. He’s a good athlete. I like having him in the middle of the diamond. Bottom line is, you’ve got to throw strikes, and that’s what he did today. “
Hunter Hollan (1-0, 2.79) is set to be the starting pitcher as Arkansas looks for the sweep of three-game series.
“Older guy, can pitch, left handed,” Van Horn said. “He felt like he didn’t have a great outing last weekend and I know he is ready to go. A 70-degree day. I think he is really excited to go and we definitely want to see him pitch. Hopefully he’ll have a really good outing and we can get into the game.
“I would like to see him go five or six (innings) and if he goes more that’s fine. He is a good Sunday guy.”
Photo courtesy of the University of Arkansas