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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Trailing 4-1 going into the bottom of the fifth inning, fifth-ranked Arkansas broke out the bats against Kent State Sunday afternoon, scoring 10-straight runs over the final five innings, to win the rubber match between the two teams, 11-4, for its fourth-straight series win at home this year.
The Razorbacks move to 11-4 for the season and have won six of their last eight games dating back to the series against Dayton (Feb. 28-March 1). In three of those wins, the Hogs have scored at least 10 runs and hit two or more home runs.
Jordan McFarland, Casey Martin, and Carson Shaddy all hit long balls in the seventh inning on Sunday, breaking the game open after Arkansas was able to tie it in the sixth. McFarland added a grand slam for good measure in the eighth inning to put the game out of reach going into the ninth.
Sophomore Evan Lee worked the final 4.1 innings out of the bullpen without giving up a run to saddle his first victory of the year. He only gave up two hits and didn’t surrender any walks in what ended up being a career-long outing.
Coming off the bench in the fifth inning for an injured Jared Gates, McFarland made the most of his three at-bats, going deep twice and plating a career-high five RBIs. He joins Martin as the only two Razorbacks with two home runs in the same game this season and he matches his entire home run total from a year ago (2).
Arkansas trailed 4-2 going into the sixth inning, but after Kent State went to its bullpen for the first time, the Hogs were able to put two on via walk and an error before the Golden Flashes recorded the first out. Kjerstad doubled home both runs with two outs by lacing a 1-1 pitch into left-centerfield, scoring Grant Koch and Carson Shaddy. It was Kjerstad’s 15th and 16th RBIs of the year, which continue to lead the team.
The seventh inning ended up being the big blow to Kent State as all three Arkansas runs were solo home runs from Martin, McFarland, and Shaddy. Martin and McFarland were of the back-to-back variety and Shaddy hit his just two batters after. It was the first time two Razorbacks hit back-to-back home runs since Eric Cole and Chad Spanberger did it in last year’s SEC Tournament semifinals (May 27, 2017).
McFarland’s grand slam in the eighth inning was the first of its kind for a Razorback since Chad Spanberger did it against Auburn in last year’s SEC Tournament quarterfinals (May 26, 2017).
Freshman Bryce Bonnin got the start for Arkansas as he was making his fourth appearance of the year. After a tough first inning that saw him walk the first two batters of the game, he retired the next seven he faced with the lone run scoring off a sacrifice fly.
Bonnin finished the game with 4.2 innings pitched on 73 pitches, just an out shy of his season long of five innings, which he had against Dayton last week.
After Kole Ramage came out of the bullpen in the fifth and faced just three batters, head coach Dave Van Horn went back to another reliever and brought in Lee, who finished the game. Lee worked out of a small jam to get the final out of the fifth, leaving two runners stranded and was nearly perfect for the remainder of the game.
“I got with him a little after that first at-bat, told him what I thought, told him ‘this what your role is, this is why you’re in there, and it is time to do it.’ Boy, did he ever respond. On his second home run, really all we wanted was a sacrifice fly and he hit a long sac fly that got out of the park. That happens every now and then. You do things right and he spun the ball and the ball got up in the wind and went 410 feet. Couple of big swings, drove in 5 runs in one day and I’m happy for him. He’s got some power, he’s got some speed, he brings a little more to the game than some guys do and we’d sure like to play him a little more.” – Head coach Dave Van Horn on Jordan McFarland’s big day off the bench
“It’s just like anyone else that comes in here with some championships from the past. They (players) know it’s a great program. Just like our guys were excited to play USC. Believe it or not, I think they were excited to play today because they felt like they had something to prove. When Texas rolls in, they know they have to stay even keel. We have to do the best we can to win those games then we have to move on. That’s the way this game works, you can’t get too high or low. We just have to play solid.” – Head coach Dave Van Horn on this week’s midweek series with Texas
“I was just trying to be more aggressive at the plate. I don’t think I was looking for the perfect pitch. I went up there the first time looking for the perfect pitch and that probably wasn’t the right thing to do with men on base. I was just trying to poke the ball in the outfield and score some runs after that.” – Jordan McFarland on his approach in his last two at-bats on Sunday
“I had a three-pitch mix going today. I really had a feel for my fastball command and then supplemented it with a curve ball and changeup. Just trying to keep them off balance and let my defense work. I know they are really good behind me and not necessarily trying to blow them away, just get outs. I’m fortunate enough to help our team win the baseball game today and on to Texas.” – Evan Lee on his performance on the mound, shutting down Kent State for 4.2 innings
Arkansas will welcome in an old Southwest Conference foe in Texas for a two-game series at Baum Stadium starting on Tuesday. First pitch will be at 7 p.m. and televised nationally on the SEC Network. The two teams will face off again on Wednesday at 4 p.m. and it will be televised online only on SEC Network+.
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