FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas got a great combination of hitting and pitching Friday night defeating North Carolina State 21-2.
The Razorbacks pounded out 17 hits in the victory and then got very good pitching from Patrick Wicklander, Heston Tole and Kole Ramage. After winning games by five, four and four runs in the regional Dave Van Horn was pleased to see the game put away pretty early.
“Just really good job by Patrick Wicklander giving us six innings tonight,” Van Horn said. “They scored in the second on us and he got out of a jam in the third. Then we came in and scored some runs, a couple of big swings… Robert’s (Moore) two-run homer and that was big, all of a sudden, we’re up 3-1. It looked like [NC State] was going to get out of a jam, and with bases loaded (Cullen) Smith put the big swing on it. The ball was jumping’ tonight at the ballpark, big time. It almost played like the wind was blowing out. We got some balls up, hit them out of the park, took advantage of a lot of walks and different things too. I think when NC State pulled (Reid) Johnston, they went with some guys that weren’t as experienced when we got up 7-1, and I don’t blame [Coach (Elliott) Avent]. Sometimes you just have to let it go and that’s what they did.”
Van Horn got from Wicklander what he was hoping for and allowing Kevin Kopps to rest another day. Wicklander worked 6.0 innings, allowed six hits, one run, walked two and fanned a half dozen hitters. He threw 99 pitches.
“I think he really pulled it together when he got out of that jam in the third inning,” Van Horn said. “Maybe his confidence jumped, he got it together and gave us 3-4 more innings. He started working ahead of hitters, started flipping some curveballs up there, a couple of change-ups…. got some pop-ups, fly balls, some quicker innings. That first inning, he threw a lot of pitches and we’re thinking,
‘he’s not going to be able to give us 3-4 innings, even if he turns it around because of his pitch count.’ But he went out and had a couple of good innings, one for sure with less than 10
Avent was also impressed with the job Wicklander did against is Wolfpacks.
“I thought he was really good,” Avent said. “He has the fastball and he commands pretty good. He threw a different velocity; he threw up to 92 and 88. He would change speeds on his fastball, but his
breaking, he had two different breaking balls. A true breaking ball and then kind of a cutter, slider. I thought he commanded his throw good enough to scatter some hits. We got like six
hits early, left a lot of guys on; like six or seven guys on base. He made the pitches that he had to and that was the difference early and then he settled in after they hit that grand slam. He
settled in a little better. I thought he was really good.”
Wicklander talked about his mindset when NC State had the bases loaded with two outs in the fourth inning and pitching in the heat.
“My mindset was to get a punch out, to get him to bite on the fastball it was just a big-time pitch in a huge situation. Well, it was hot but in between innings have a fan and keep drinking water but as the game went on it started to cool down a little bit.”
The Razorbacks hit four home runs and had five innings where they scored three or more runs.
“We’ve played so many tight games in the SEC tournament and also the regional, I mean it was different, it was nice to win one and know in the middle of the game that if we just held it
together a little bit, we were going to win it,” Van Horn said. “Because we’ve had some really tight ones, pins and needles basically. Gave us a chance to play a couple different guys and rest some guys for a few innings. It just wasn’t expected, so that’s what made it different.”
Moore hit two of the home runs. He was 4-5 on the day and knocked in five runs. He was asked about the bats coming alive after being quiet against Nebraska.
“I don’t know if the bats were kind of quiet if you look at our match-up against Nebraska, they had to bring in a lot of arms that matched up perfectly with our lineup because our lineup is so
good and talented,” Moore said. “We are taking a lot of walks and a lot of good at bats we have been getting the job done. We’re not getting doubles, triples, and home runs like we used to, but I wouldn’t
say they’re quiet.”
Smith hit a grand slam in the bottom of the third to help spark the rout. Moore was impressed.
“It was huge because it put it out of reach where they were going to throw their main left-handers out of the pen,” Moore said. “Yes, they are saving them for tomorrow but it kind of guaranteed us a
chance to win this game because they weren’t going to throw those two left-handers.”
Arkansas scored 21 runs with one of its best players, Christian Franklin, missing the game with illness. Braydon Webb replaced him in center field.
“We just say, ‘next man up,’” Van Horn said. “We feel like we’ve got some good players over there waiting to play and like I said, the team likes each other a lot. They help each other out, they pull for each other. It’s just what we’ve been doing all year, it didn’t surprise me a bit. It was a good team effort.”
Moore echoed Van Horn’s statement about the depth on this team.
“Someone made a comment the first week of the year and we went down to Texas, and we won those three games with different lineup because (Matt) Goodheart was out and guys playing
a little out of position,” Moore said. “We do not necessarily have nine guys we have 12 or 13 we just don’t have a 9-guy lineup which is credit to out coaching staff and getting everyone here and with
developing these players and that have players that are dynamic that can be in multiple roles.”
The win allowed Arkansas to move to 50-11 on the season. For Van Horn, this is the first 50-win season at Arkansas.
“I hadn’t really thought about it,” Van Horn said. 0 is a big number. We’ve won a lot of games. We still have work to do, we’re not going to get all carried away about it. It’ll probably be something we talk about when the season is over, but we gotta keep winning.”
Arkansas and NC State will play Game 2 today at 2 p.m. and televised on ESPN2.