BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
ARLINGTON, Texas – Razorback starting pitcher Hagen Smith did something Friday akin to holding down the fort down until the cavalry arrived deep in the heart of Texas.
Smith pitched five scoreless innings and then watched fellow sophomore Brady Tygart slammed the door late as No. 8 Arkansas downed Texas 3-2 in the nightcap of the College Baseball Showdown at Globe Life Field.
“It was one of those games that was very exciting and emotional and we will sleep good tonight,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said.
Kendall Diggs’ two-run double in the seventh broke up the scoreless tie and John Bolton’s run scoring single later in the inning gave the Razorbacks all their runs.
“It felt great,” Diggs said. “There was another situation earlier in the game with runners in scoring position and I didn’t come through, So I just wanted to get up there. He started me off with a slider and then I got a fastball and just put a good swing on it.”
Texas cut it to 3-2 it in the bottom of the seventh, but a large contingent of Razorbacks helped Arkansas finish off the win in the season opener for both teams.
“We had an incredible fan base tonight,” Van Horn said. “They showed up and you could tell from the time they walked onto the field to stretch and they started calling the Hogs for the first time.
“There were so many Arkansas fans here and I think the players really appreciated it.”
Brady Slavens and Bolton each had two of Arkansas’ 8 hits while the Razorbacks’ four pitchers limited Texas to 5.
“It was obviously a pitcher’s dual,” Van Horn said of a game in which his team left nine runners on base. “Both teams pitched extremely well. Kendall got the big hit of the game.
“We won the game and the pitching was outstanding, but we have got to do a better job with runners in scoring position and I am sure Texas feels the same way.”
Smith and Texas starter Lucas Gordon both went five innings with neither allowing a run.
Smith, a Texas native who threw seven no-hitters in his senior season at Bullard, felt good about his outing.
“I had a little bit of everything working tonight – my change up was working pretty good and keep the hitters off balance.”
Gordon also went five innings also while allowing two hits, fanning six and walking one.
“I thought offensively what we did well was that we got their starter Gordon’s pitch count up, fouled off a lot of pitches and fought him,” Van Horn said of Gordon tossing 68 pitches. “He’s good and he doesn’t miss by much when he does unless he wants to. He got us out.
“We did get his pitch count and we felt like five innings was probably what he was going to pitch. When you are striking guys out, your pitch count is going to get up.
Smith allowed just one hit while fanning 8 and walking a pair, both of which he left stranded in his final inning of work.
“He struck out seven or eight in his five innings so his pitch count got up, too. If it is later in the season, I think both starters would have been going six and who knows, maybe the seventh.
“It came down to the bullpens and it was quite the bullpen battle. Again we held on and did just enough to win the ballgame.”
Smith turned the game over to Cody Adcock (1-0) in the sixth, who passed it on to Koty Frank to get the game to Tygart.
Tygart was a freshman all-American last season as a closer before struggling later in the season.
“It was just a matter of experience and stuff,” Van Horn said of going to Tygart to close. “He has great stuff. He got off to a little bit of a slow start after the holidays.
“But we talked as a staff about how we were going to pitch the game and we kept hjm for the back of the game. And obviously he did a tremendous job. He came in throwing strikes with every thing that he threw.
“I think his reputation was that he has got as good breaking ball, a good fastball and now he has a two-seamer, a change up, a slider and it is not just all about throwing the curve ball.
“If you pitch like that, you can finish a lot of games, go three or four innings or even start.”
Tygart felt good on the mound.
“It felt really familiar when I got out there under the lights and on the mound,” Tygart said.
Slavens led off the seventh with a single and Jared Wegner followed with another one to get the offense going.
Arkansas reloaded the bases after scoring the three runs, but Peyton Stovall and Caleb Cali both fanned to end the threat.
“I think two of those (Slavens) hits were with two strikes, started innings for us and started the big inning when we scored three. But you look back on it and we should have had five runs.”
Arkansas will face TCU Saturday night at 7 p.m.
Oklahoma State beat Missouri 5-3 and the Horned Frogs downed Vanderbilt 11-4 in Friday’s earlier games in the event which matches SEC and Big 12 programs.
Photo by John D. James