Pitchers dominate, Hogs rally to beat TCU
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Arkansas continued its dominance on the mound and pulled off another late rally Monday night to finish off an impressive opening-weekend sweep.
Backing up an 18-strikeout, two-hit performance by five pitchers, the No. 12 Razorbacks scored a pair of runs in each of the final two innings and beat No. 15 TCU 4-1 at the State Farm College Baseball Showdown in Arlington, Texas.
The strikeout total tied a single-game UA record, helping Arkansas improve to 3-0 with win over three nationally ranked Big 12 programs at Globe Life Field.
“We learned a lot about our toughness and a little bit of how we’re going to handle our pitching (and) just that the team likes to play,” head coach Dave Van Horn said. “Winning three games, that’s great because any win you can grab with the schedule we’re playing this year is a good thing.”
As good as the Razorbacks were on the mound, it took a while before their bats woke up and provided some run support.
The Horned Frogs led 1-0 until the eighth inning, when Christian Franklin broke out his 1-for-11 slump by ripping an RBI triple to the right-center gap that tied the game. He then scored the go-ahead run on an RBI single by Cullen Smith.
“We kind of knew it was coming,” Van Horn said. “He’s level-headed. (Franklin) hung in there and we kept telling him, ‘It’s coming. Just keep swinging. You’re fine. We’re not upset. It happens.’ That’s the way the game works.”
Arkansas tacked on a couple of insurance runs in the ninth thanks to an RBI double by Casey Opitz and a wild pitch that allowed him to score following a sacrifice bunt by Zack Gregory - all of which, including Smith’s go-ahead hit in the eighth - came against TCU’s preseason All-American reliever, Haylen Green.
That was enough cushion for Van Horn to let Kevin Kopps work around a pair of walks in the bottom half of the final inning and the veteran right-hander eventually struck out the side to seal it.
Here’s a recap of everything you need to know from the win over the Horned Frogs…
Redemption for Kopps
Two days earlier, Arkansas turned to Kopps to stop the bleeding in the fifth inning against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders had already taken a 2-1 lead, but were threatening for more.
It didn’t go well for the sixth-year junior. He gave up a pair of RBI singles to the first two batters he faced sandwiched around a run-scoring wild pitch. Although he was charged with only one earned run, Kopps allowed both inherited runners to score in a five-run inning.
Remembering that outing and his struggles in the pandemic-shortened season, when opponents slugged .700 against him and he posted an 8.18 ERA in 11 innings, some fans may have questioned the decision to bring in Kopps after taking a 2-1 lead in the top of the eighth.
He had several other options to choose from, but Van Horn called upon the veteran he praised throughout the offseason as being much improved from last year.
“Probably more than anything just experience,” Van Horn said. “We know pretty quick if he’s got that cutter going and he did. … If it hadn’t gone good the first hitter or two, we would have gone with someone else.”
The gamble paid off. Kopps induced an easy ground ball and then got Elijah Nunez and Tommy Sacco - the top two batters in TCU’s lineup - each to look at strike three.
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