No. 1 Arkansas took the lead for the first time in the top of the eighth when Brady Slavens scored from third on a sacrifice flyout by Robert Moore and the Hogs held on for a 6-5 win on Friday night in Knoxville.
For Slavens, it was his third hit of the game. Moore hit the one-out fly to deep center to easily get Slavens across the plate. Kevin Kopps (8-0) worked the final three innings to get the win. Kopps allowed one hit, walked a hitter, struck out two, faced 11 hitters, threw 66 pitches with 41 for strikes.
Tennessee jumped on Arkansas ace Patrick Wicklander in the bottom of the first. Liam Spence singled to start the game. Max Ferguson had a bunt single. Jake Rucker then doubled to plate both Spence and Ferguson. With one out, Evan Russell reached on an error on Cullen Smith at third. Then with two outs, Jordan Beck hit a 3-run shot over the fence for a 5-0 lead.
In the top of the second, Christian Franklin singled to get the Hogs started. Moore followed with a 2-run shot over the fence in right field to pull within 5-2. That was Moore’s 12th home run of season which tied him with Matt Goodheart for the team lead.
In the top of the third, Cayden Wallace got a two-out single. After almost being picked off first he was ruled safe. The next pitch after the review Slavens sent it over the fence to pull the Hogs within 5-4.
In the top of the fifth, Jalen Battles and Zack Gregory walked to start inning. Matt Goodheart flied out, but Battles advanced to third. Wallace then singled to get Battles home to tie the game at 5.
Wicklander worked 2.2 innings in a short stint. He allowed six hits, five runs (two earned), a pair of walks, couple of strikeouts, faced 17 hitters, threw 67 pitches and 39 were strikes. Caden Monke replaced him and pitched out of a bases loaded jam. Slavens then singled to load the bases with one out. That was it for Tennessee starter Chad Dallas. Tony Vitello went to the bullpen and brought in Sean Hunley. He immediately struck out both Franklin and Moore to end the threat. Hunley (7-3) took the loss.
Monke was outstanding in relief. He went 3.1 innings, allowed a walk, hit one batter, struck out three, faced 12 hitters, threw 49 pitches with 34 being strikes. Kopps replaced him to start the bottom of the seventh.
Arkansas (38-9, 18-7) and Tennessee (38-12, 17-8) will meet at 11 a.m. CT on Saturday. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.
Saturday’s pitching matchup is Arkansas’ right hander Peyton Pallette (1-2, 4.01 ERA) against Tennessee lefty Will Heflin (2-2, 4.17 ERA).