HawgBeat Decade in Review: 10 most memorable baseball wins of the 2010s
When the clock struck midnight, 2019 came to a close and 2020 got underway. With it came the end of a decade: the 2020s.
Before we completely move on to the next decade, though, HawgBeat is still taking a look back at the past 10 years with a series of lists that will remember the best players, games, coaches and moments that defined the decade.
Next up is our countdown of the Razorbacks’ 10 most memorable wins in their most successful decade in program history…
10. Rally in Ruston
March 1, 2017 - Arkansas 13, Louisiana Tech 10 — Ruston, La.
The Razorbacks had their worst season ever under Dave Van Horn in 2016 and fans were still on edge early the next year when they headed to Ruston, La., for a two-game midweek series. The Bulldogs won the first game 4-3 and were well on their way to winning the next day, jumping out to a 10-1 lead in the second inning.
However, Arkansas was a completely different team than the year before and slugged its way back into the game. Luke Bonfield, Grant Koch, Dominic Fletcher, Jax Biggers and Jordan McFarland each homered as the Razorbacks scored 12 unanswered runs over the final six innings to win 13-10.
It was the most home runs Arkansas had hit in a game since 2010 and showed off the power that produced 269 long balls the last three years of the decade.
9. Spanberger Goes Nuts
May 25, 2017 - Arkansas 12, Auburn 0 (7 innings) — Hoover, Ala.
It’s not often a team throws a no-hitter and that’s not the biggest story of the game, but that’s exactly what happened in Arkansas’ dominant win over Auburn in the SEC Tournament.
Facing elimination, Spanberger went on one of the best stretches by a hitter in college baseball history. It started against the Tigers, when he homered in his first three at bats. With a solo shot in the first, a two-run bomb int he third and a grand slam in the fourth, not only did he need one more home run to break the single-game UA record, but he lacked a three-run homer to achieve the ultra-rare home run cycle.
Both of Spanberger’s next two plate appearances came with two runners on base, but he was intentionally walked in the fifth and grounded out in the seventh. That was his last chance in the game because Dominic Taccolini (2 innings), Matt Cronin (3 innings) and Josh Alberius (2 innings) combined for a no-hitter in the seven-inning run-rule victory.
Spanberger stayed hot the next day and ended up having a stretch of 12 plate appearances in which he hit five home runs and two doubles, walked three times (including twice intentionally), reached on a fielder’s choice and struck out once, earning him MVP honors despite Arkansas’ runner-up finish.
8. Auburn Dogpiles, Arkansas Wins
April 5, 2019 - Arkansas 9, Auburn 6 (15 innings) — Auburn, Ala.
In the midst of the toughest part of its schedule, Arkansas had just lost its first series at Baum-Walker Stadium the week before and was in danger of dropping its series at Auburn.
After wasting a solid outing from ace Isaiah Campbell, the Razorbacks had to turn around immediately and play the second game of a doubleheader. It was tied 4-4 after nine innings, so it went to extras.
In the 10th, the Tigers seemingly won in walk-off fashion and proceeded to dogpile at home plate in celebration. However, the play was reviewed and umpires ruled that Christian Franklin’s throw to the plate from left field was in time and the game continued.
Trevor Ezell hit a two-run homer in the 12th, only for an error to allow Auburn to tie it back up and keep the game going. Finally, the Razorbacks pulled it out in the 15th thanks to a leadoff home run by Heston Kjerstad and two-run double by Matt Goodheart.
7. Benintendi, Wernes Provide Late-Night Heroics in Hoover
May 20, 2015 - Arkansas 7, Florida 6 — Hoover, Ala.
Trailing by two entering the ninth inning against No. 6 Florida in the SEC Tournament, Andrew Benintendi - who was 0 for 7 in Hoover at that point - hit a leadoff home run off the scoreboard to cut the deficit in half.
Later in the ninth, Bobby Wernes provided the highlight most fans remember. Known more for defense during his time in Fayetteville, the third baseman fouled off eight pitches - including six with two strikes - before sending the 11th pick of the at bat over the left field fence for a go-ahead, two-run home run.
The Gators got the tying run to third base in the bottom of the inning, but Zach Jackson struck out Jeremy Vasquez to end the game around 1:30 a.m.
6. 2015 Omaha-clincher at Baum
June 7, 2015 - Arkansas 3, Missouri State 2 — Fayetteville
Even though the Razorbacks lost their next two games in Hoover to be eliminated from the SEC Tournament, they carried the momentum of that Florida win into the postseason. After sweeping a regional hosted by Oklahoma State, a trip to Missouri State for the super regionals was on the horizon - or so it seemed.
Despite being the No. 8 overall seed, the Bears had to travel to Fayetteville because their home ballpark was being used by the Springfield Cardinals that weekend.
Massive crowds packed Baum-Walker Stadium for all three games - the first postseason games in Fayetteville since 2010 - with 11,694 seeing Arkansas jump out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning and then hang on for a one-run victory that sent it to the College World Series.
5. 2012 Omaha-clincher in Waco Heat
June 1, 2012 - Arkansas 1, Baylor 0 (10 innings) — Waco, Texas
Three years earlier, the Razorbacks’ path to Omaha went through Texas. They swept the Rice regional, but found themselves one game from elimination in the Baylor super regional when they lost to the No. 4 Bears 8-1 in Game 1.
Arkansas survived with two runs in the ninth the following day, winning with back-to-back bases-loaded hit by pitches. A case could be made for that game to be on this list, but we went with the clinching win.
Neither team scored in the first nine innings played in scorching temperatures, with Baylor’s Tyler Bremer allowing only four base runners in nine shutout innings. The Bears had to go to their bullpen in the 10th and Jake Wise delivered a two-out RBI single for the game’s only run.
With the tying run in scoring position and winning run on base, Colby Suggs struck out Dan Evatt to send the Razorbacks to the College World Series.
4. Kuhn’s Walk-Off Grand Slam Caps Wild Win over Kentucky
April 4, 2010 - Arkansas 17, Kentucky 16 — Fayetteville
In the final season before BBCOR bats changed college baseball, Arkansas and Kentucky played a wild slugfest in which they combined for 33 runs on 33 hits, including seven home runs, on Eastern Sunday.
The Razorbacks led 13-5 through four innings and 13-9 through seven, but the Wildcats exploded for seven runs off D.J. Baxendale in the eighth and led 16-13 entering the ninth.
Down to its final out and with only one runner on base, future big leaguers James McCann and Andy Wilkins singled and walked, respectively. That brought up Collin Kuhn with the bases loaded and he delivered a walk-off grand slam that gave Arkansas a rubber-game victory.
3. One Win Away
June 26, 2018 - Arkansas 4, Oregon State 1 — Omaha, Neb.
Although it will always be remembered for the play it couldn’t make, the 2018 team was arguably the best in UA history. Arkansas cruised through its first three games in Omaha to reach the College World Series for just the second time ever.
Matched up with a power Oregon State team, the Razorbacks fell behind 1-0 early before manufacturing four runs in the fifth inning. They made that lead stick, as Blaine Knight held down the Beavers’ potent offense for six innings, Barrett Loseke threw two scoreless and Cronin slammed the door.
For Knight and Cronin, it was win and save No. 14, respectively, both of which were school records. The victory also meant Arkansas needed to win just one of the next two games to capture the national title. Inundated with Arkansas fans, the excitement level in Omaha was at an all-time high.
2. McCann’s Walk-Off HR Beats LSU
April 9, 2011 - Arkansas 4, LSU 3 — Fayetteville
Arguably the most famous walk-off home run in school history, McCann’s blast came after Arkansas and LSU played eight scoreless innings. The Tigers managed to plate three runs in the top of the ninth and were seemingly on their way to evening the series at Baum-Walker.
Instead, in the bottom of the ninth and with LSU starter Kevin Gausman finally out of the game, Sam Bates got the Razorbacks on the board with an RBI single. A few batters later, McCann launched a 1-2 pitch into the Hog Pen - sending the team and crowd of 11,103 fans into a frenzy.
It is still one of just three times Arkansas has won a regular-season series against the Tigers during Van Horn’s 17-year tenure.
1. Baum After Dark - 3 a.m. win over Missouri State
June 4, 2017 - Arkansas 11, Missouri State 10 — Fayetteville
In a game that will likely never be replicated, Arkansas kept its season alive with a dramatic win over Missouri State that was played in a downpour and ended after 3 a.m.
It would be impossible to properly remember just how crazy the game was in just a few paragraphs, so here’s my game story - written shortly before the sun rose over Fayetteville and fueled by the few sips of Pepsi I managed to choke down in the late innings…
FAYETTEVILLE – Evan Lee struck out Justin Paulsen to end the craziest game you ever saw.
With its season hanging in the balance, Arkansas beat Missouri State 11-10 in a game that ended at 3:10 a.m., six hours after the first pitch, to force an elimination to be played at 6 p.m. Monday.
That came more than 10 hours after the Razorbacks began playing their first game, a 4-3 elimination game win over Oral Roberts.
“I think these kids just kept playing,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “We’ve dealt with these elements the last month, especially on the road…I just feel fortunate that we ended up on top.”
Rain caused the second game to start more than an hour later than scheduled and then prompted an hour and 25 minute delay that took the game past midnight.
During that break, Van Horn said he was in favor of going home and picking up the game Monday afternoon, “but people weren’t having any part of that, so whatever.”
It threated to delay the game again in the middle of the eighth inning before Van Horn protested and kept the game going, despite heavy rain falling at Baum Stadium.
“In the top of that inning, it seemed like we had to play defense in the rain, so don’t put the tarp on then,” Van Horn said. “We wanted to play.”
The grounds crew prepped the field and, with Missouri State leading 8-7, they played on.
Luke Bonfield and Dominic Fletcher led off the frame with back-to-back hits and then Jax Biggers tied the game on an RBI groundout.
That’s when the Bears decided to bring in All-American reliever Jake Fromson for his third appearance in as many days.
He didn’t seem to get a good grip on the wet baseballs, as he threw two wild pitches to let Fletcher score the go-ahead run and then walked Carson Shaddy.
Jared Gates provided some insurance with a two-run home run in the next at bat.
“I knew he was a changeup/curveball guy,” Gates said. “I was kind of sitting on that changeup and sure enough he hung one up there and I put a good swing on it.”
It proved to be a huge hit. Down to the game’s final strike, Hunter Steinmetz pulled Missouri State within a run with a two-run homer.
Van Horn brought in Lee, a freshman and the eighth pitcher of the game, to try to slam the door after the long ball. He needed five pitches to strikeout Paulsen and end the marathon.
“When there was an opportunity to put the dagger in them tonight, I wasn’t going to let that slip past,” Lee said. “I just came out there, executed some pitches and it worked out for me.”
Although he admitted he was “comfortable” with resuming the game after the rain delay, Missouri State head coach Keith Guttin was clearly unhappy about what he viewed as Van Horn overruling the umpire’s decision to tarp the field in the eighth inning.
“Never seen it in 35 years,” Guttin said. “I’m not going to say the rain beat us, but when the home plate umpire asks for the tarp, generally the tarp comes on.
“Give Arkansas credit for coming back, scoring some runs and playing a good game. I don’t think games should be decided in the rain at 3 a.m.”
For the Razorbacks and their thousands of fans who remained in the stands after 3 a.m., though, it was a happy ending to a wild game.
“It was one of those games I’ll remember the rest of my life,” Lee said. “Going out there and just grinding a win out in all the elements that possibly could happen and any situation that could happen…was just awesome.”
HawgBeat Decade in Review
Dec. 18 - Top Football Recruits of the 2010s (top 10 on offense and defense)
Dec. 19 - 10 Best Football Wins of the 2010s
Dec. 21 - Top 25 Football Players of the 2010s
Dec. 23 - 10 Best Coaches of the 2010s
Dec. 27 - Top Baseball Recruits of the 2010s (top 10 who made it to campus and who didn’t make it to campus)
Jan. 1 - 10 Most Memorable Baseball Wins of the 2010s