FAYETTEVILLE — No. 5 Arkansas missed a big opportunity to take the lead in the top of the eighth and fell to Georgia 6-5 on Thursday night in Athens.
The Razorbacks trailing 6-4 in the top of the eighth loaded the bases with no outs. But Georgia reliever Leighton Finley pitched out of the jam. He came in with runners on first and second and hit Brady Slavens to load the bases. However, then Finley struck out Hudson Polk, Harold Coll and Tavian Josenberger to end the threat. Kendall Diggs had walked to start the inning. He advanced to second when Ben McLaughlin was hit by a pitch. Diggs scored on a Caleb Cali single to center field. Dave Van Horn wasn’t happy with how the Hogs failed to capitalize on a big opportunity.
“We were trying to climb out of a hole, but we gave ourselves an opportunity to win the game in the eighth and the ninth,” Van Horn said. “The eighth was a killer. We just couldn’t get the big hit there. That’s the disappointment. You’ve got to put the bat on the ball, score a run, get it a little bit closer.”
Arkansas put together another rally in the top of the ninth. With one out, Jace Bohrofen singled. Diggs then doubled to center field to allow Bohrofen to score and pull the Hogs within a run. McLaughlin was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second. However, Cali flied out to center field and Slavens popped up to shortstop to end the game.
“Obviously in the ninth we rallied again with a one-out single and then a double hit off the wall,” Van Horn said. “We had another opportunity and had a couple of good hitters up there, guys that can get it done. And they just couldn’t get the big hit. So credit to Georgia’s pitching and us not coming through with that big hit.”
The other difference in the game was the bottom of the third when Georgia pushed five runners across the plate. Ben Anderson and Charlie Condon singled to start the inning. After a flyout, then Parks Harber singled to score Anderson and move Condon to third. Condon then scored on a passed ball to tie the game at 2, but the Bulldogs weren’t finished. With two outs Sebastian Murillo walked. Fernandez Gonzalez then turned on a Hunter Hollan pitch and sent it over the fence in left field for a three-run home run.
The Bulldogs added what proved to be the winning run in the bottom of the fourth. Anderson walked with one out. Condon flied out for the second one. Arkansas appeared to be out of the inning when Connor Tate hit a routine grounder to shortstop John Bolton. However Bolton booted the ball allowing Anderson to get to second and Tate on first with two down. Harber then singled allowing Anderson to score. Van Horn then replaced Bolton with Harold Coll.
“We got off to a really bad start,” Van Horn said. “We gave them five runs there in the third. A couple of walks, an error. A really big error that they took advantage of. They got a fourth out and they singled with two outs to put up five instead of three.”
The Hogs jumped out to a 2-0 lead against starter Kolten Smith in the top of the first. Tavian Josenberger walked and then Peyton Stovall doubled. Josenberger scored on Stovall’s double. With two outs, McLaughlin singled to right field to plate Stovall.
Hollan (6-2) got the start for Arkansas and took the loss. He pitched five innings, allowing seven hits, six runs, five earned, walked five, struck out two and hit one batter. He left with a pitch count of 99. Dylan Carter pitched 2.2 innings and only allowed a pair of hits. Christian Foutch got the final out for the Hogs. Van Horn was pleased that Hollan could give the Hogs five innings, but noted he didn’t have his best stuff all night.
“He was wild,” Van Horn said. “He walked five. He was pitching behind in the count a little bit, and they’ve got some good hitters. He’s got to pitch ahead, and he’s got a good fastball, but he uses his off-speed well. They didn’t chase. When that’s the case, you’ve got to throw the ball over the plate. And then we didn’t play good defense behind him. In the first inning, we didn’t turn a double play. Should have been out No. 2 and 3, but we didn’t get 3 because we didn’t get the ball to the second baseman in time.”
Smith (2-1) got the win for the Bulldogs. He pitched four innings, allowing three hits, a pair of runs, walked two and struck out three. The Bulldogs used five pitchers with Dalton Rhadons getting the save, his second of the season.
The Razorbacks pounded out 10 hits to nine for Georgia, but the Hogs stranded 11 runners on the night. That proved to be the difference in the game. The one error also was costly with Georgia playing a clean game on defense. Cali, Diggs and McLaughlin each had two hits to lead the Hogs.
Van Horn also provided an injury update on pitcher Brady Tygart and catcher Parker Rowland. Tygart isn’t on the roster for this series and Rowland injured his back.
“Tygart, I mean he’s probably about there,” Van Horn said. “But we just feel like that we need to go one more week. So we went ahead and had him throw a bullpen yesterday and he threw really well. It’s not like he’s thrown a lot of pitches, but just feel like one more [week] and we’ll be a little bit safer, and then next weekend we should get him out there. And that was the target date all along. So we thought, ‘Let’s just stick with it.’
“I don’t know if he’s (Rowland) going to be ready or not (Friday). He’s having some back issues, so we’ll just … I doubt it. We’ll see.”
Arkansas (30-8, 11-5) and Georgia (21-17, 5-11) will play again Friday at 5 p.m. They will finish the series on Saturday at 1 p.m. Both those games will be on the SEC Network+.