BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
It’s no secret that Arkansas has lost a few pitchers to injury this season, but it appears the Razorbacks have also found one.
Former Bentonville West pitcher Dylan Carter fired three scoreless innings of relief to get his first career save and finish off Arkansas’ 7-4 win over Louisiana Tech Friday afternoon at Baum-Walker Stadium.
Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn summoned Carter from the bullpen in the seventh with two on, no outs and the go-ahead run at the plate.
“Well, I thought we made a couple of big plays when we needed them,” Van Horn said. “Obviously, Dylan Carter came in and did a great job for us, gave us three full innings and mixed in a lot of off-speed pitches, along with a fastball with good sink.
“He came into a tough situation…I think he had to go through maybe the two, three and four hitters, somewhere in there. Just really did a nice job.”
It was indeed a clutch effort from Carter, who was Arkansas’ third hurler of the day after starter and winner Hagen Smith (3-0) and Cody Adcock, who both gave up two runs.
“I would be the first one to admit that I didn’t have my best stuff today,” Carter said, “but I just wanted to go out there and challenge their hitters, get outs and keep putting my test back in the dugout.”
Carter got out of that inning with a the help of a key defensive play by Razorback first baseman Brady Slavens.
“You look at the defensive play that Brady Slavens made with two outs in that inning,” Van Horn said. “Ball was hit by a left-handed hitter on the ground toward the right-field line, and Brady, he just made a great play.
“The ball took kind of a funny hop there at the end, kind of jumped out and up on him. He tracked it. That was a big play for us.”
Jace Bohrofen and Parker Rowland both hit two-run homers in the second inning as Arkansas (11-2) – who outhit Louisiana Tech 11-8 – jumped out to a 4-0 lead.
But Louisiana Tech (8-5) had cut its deficit 6-4 when Carter was summoned from the bullpen.
“I think it was a huge pivot,” Carter said. “That was the heart of their order, some of their best hitters and it was first and second with no outs. I got behind early and kind of had to throw a strike there. He put a good swing on it and luckily we have the best center fielder (Tavian Josenberger) in college baseball sitting right here.
“Then the second pop out and after that I knew I was going to get that guy and was able to keep the momentum in our dugout.”
Smith took a no-hitter into the fifth before giving up four hits in that inning, including a two-run double to Jonathan Hogart.
He fanned seven, walked four – including three of the first five batters he faced – and ended up throwing 86 pitched, 55 for strikes.
“He threw a lot of pitches in a couple innings and got his pitch count up,” Van Horn said. “I mean, he walked four, had a couple of full counts. They got a big two-out hit, that five-run lead was gone. Then all of a sudden it’s only three.
“Then, they got another big two-out hit the next inning. It wasn’t off Hagen, but that’s kind of the way the game works a little bit. I thought he had good stuff…He just needs to put more of those type of innings (limited pitches) together. If he does, he’s going to give us seven or eight innings, and that’s what we’d love.”
Adcock relieved and got the first two batters before giving up a two-run blast to freshman Kason Evans, who homered and doubled in his college debut.
“Yeah, it is a concern,” Van Horn said. “I feel like he goes out, he’s locked in, he gets it done, and then they got a two-out hit, and I don’t know what he thought, he just laid it in there.
“I’m not going to say he’s careless, I’m not going to say he made a mistake, but give that hitter credit, but yeah, he’s got to finish.”
Rowland was proud of Smith for gutting out the five innings.
“I thought Hagen did a great job,” Rowland said. “In my eyes, I don’t think he had his best stuff, but I think he competed as well. He did a great job and kind of got in a groove there in like the second, third and fourth.
“But I am really excited to keep going with him and I think he is going to have a big year and just keeps getting more comfortable every time he goes out there.”
Arkansas won the game despite stranding 13 base runners and going 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position.
The last three Arkansas runs all came via the sacrifice fly.
“Yeah, we couldn’t get that big blow that blew the game open, maybe a bases-clearing double,” Van Horn said. “We’ve gotten a lot of those hits this year. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes, but I was really glad to see that we kept fighting and finding ways to put a little pressure on ‘em.”
Arkansas and Louisiana Tech are set to meet Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.
Photo by John D. James