Hogs han­dle CCSU in Fayet­teville opener

The Saline Courier Weekend - - SPORTS -

Bryant, 3 for 5 with a 2-run home run, three RBIS and a stolen base, conked the Cen­tral Con­necti­cut State Blue Dev­ils 11-5 in Fri­day after­noon’s first-round game.

Some 10,037 paid at­ten­dance with 9,858 tick­ets scanned.

Rookie right-han­der Noland im­proved to 3-4 al­low­ing but two hits for 5.1 in­nings and be­queath­ing a 6-1 lead when re­lieved by Kopps dur­ing Arkansas’ three-er­ror sixth in­ning net­ting the Blue Dev­ils an un­earned run bat­ted in by TT Bowens, CCSU’S slug­ging first base­man knock­ing in all five CCSU runs.

Af­ter strik­ing out in the first, Bowens belted a long sac­ri­fice fly off Noland in the fourth and should have been re­tired by Kopps but for short­stop Casey Martin fum­bling the ball be­fore he could throw it to first dur­ing the three-er­ror in­ning with Ezell charged with two mis­cues.

Bowens belted a 3-run home run off re­liever Mar­shall Den­ton in the eighth, but Ezell’s 2-run home run in the Arkansas eighth gave Den­ton the cush­ion for a CCSU ninth.

The hit­ting was big for

a 42-17 Ra­zor­backs team strug­gling to hit its last two SEC reg­u­lar sea­son games at Texas A&M and mus­ter­ing but five hits each game go­ing 1-2 in last week’s SEC Tour­na­ment at Hoover, Alabama.

“Just a good job by the team kind of get­ting it go­ing bet­ter of­fen­sively,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “We only left four run­ners on base so we got some big hits and we did a nice job of get­ting them around and scor­ing.”

But it was Noland’s arm, not the bats, open­ing Van Horn’s postgame con­ver­sa­tion.

“I thought it started with Con­nor com­ing out and just throw­ing a lot of strikes,” Van Horn said. “He got through the first cou­ple of in­nings with prob­a­bly less than 20 pitches. He had a lot of ground balls. When he’s get­ting ground balls he’s the got the two-seamer sink­ing and run­ning. He pitches to con­tact and that’s what we wanted him to do.”

Noland set out fol­low­ing the script.

“I was just at­tack­ing the zone,” Noland said. “Throw­ing strikes, fill­ing it up, keep­ing them off-bal­ance with off-speeds. I think that’s just re­ally been the key for me hav­ing a suc­cess­ful out­ing. Just keep­ing them off bal­ance and keep­ing them guess­ing through­out the out­ing.”

Some nice plays by cen­ter fielder Do­minic Fletcher,

“he makes the hard ones look easy,” CCSU Coach Char­lie Hickey said, and a would-be RBI single up the mid­dle turned into an out by short­stop Martin, helped too.

So did Kopps, com­ing in with run­ners at sec­ond and third via er­rors and one out in the sixth to get Bowens to ground into what should have be­come a sec­ond-out RBI in­stead of safe at first.

Kopps then con­sec­u­tively struck out Dave Matthews and and Buddy De­waine.

“He (Kopps) came in and made some ter­rific pitches in some big spots,” Hickey said. “That was our win­dow to try to close and we didn’t ac­com­plish that.”

Van Horn ex­plained though Noland didn’t give up a hit in the sixth he didn’t want him fac­ing Bowens a third time. And Noland only throw­ing 58 pitches, Van Horn said pulling him then might al­low Noland some pitch­ing availabili­ty for Sun­day or if Arkansas is Mon­day in­volved in a win­ner-take-all cham­pi­onship game.

“The mid­dle of their or­der was go­ing to be on him a third time and we just felt like it was time to go with Kopps,” Van Horn said. “The game was a lit­tle too tight for us and they were bat­tling. Kevin came in and got a ground ball and a cou­ple of strike­outs and did the job.” Noland con­curred.

“Props to him,” Noland said. “I ap­pre­ci­ate him com­ing in and lock­ing them down.”

Arkansas took a 2-0 lead off los­ing starter Bran­don Fox in the sec­ond. Kjer­stad and Jack Ken­ley sin­gled con­sec­u­tively Ken­ley tak­ing sec­ond on left fielder Pey­ton Stephens’ weak off­line throw try­ing to get Kjer­stad at third. Casey Opitz’s vir­tual swing­ing bunt scored Kjer­stad and ad­vanced

Ken­ley to score on a wild pitch.

Kjer­stad an­swered Bowen’s fourth-in­ning sac­ri­fice fly with his home run bashed way over right.

“He threw me a fast­ball down the mid­dle and I took a good swing and the ball got out of there,” Kjer­stad said.

Chris­tian Franklin’s dou­ble and Ezell’s single opened Arkansas’ 3-run fifth tal­lied on a passed ball and dou­bles by Matt Good­heart and Kjer­stad.

Franklin and Ezell’s nub­ber ac­counted for RBI sin­gles in the 3-run sixth that also in­cluded an un­earned run.

Ezell capped it home­r­ing off lefty An­drew Braun in the eighth.

“They had 17 baserun­ners so that keeps the pres­sure on you,” Hickey said. “There’s a rea­son they are ranked No. 5 in the na­tion.”

Hickey’s North­east Con­fer­ence Tour­na­ment cham­pion Blue Dev­ils, 30-22, in the loser’s bracket played Cal on Satur­day with the loser elim­i­nated from the Fayet­teville Re­gional.

If the Hogs de­feated TCU Satur­day night, they play at 8 p.m. to­day with a shot at wrap­ping up the re­gional. Should Arkansas lose to TCU, the Ra­zor­backs play at 2 p.m.

CRAVEN WHITLOW/NATE Allen Sports Ser­vice

For­mer Bryant Hor­net and cur­rent Arkansas grad­u­ate player Trevor Ezell slaps a hit in an 11-5 win over Con­necti­cut State Univer­sity Fri­day at Baum-walker Sta­dium in Fayet­teville. Ezell went 3 for 5 with a home run, stolen base and three RBIS in the win.

CRAVEN WHITLOW/NATE Allen Sports Ser­vice

Arkansas fresh­man Con­nor Noland, 13, leaves his start con­grat­u­lated by team­mates af­ter giv­ing up just two runs (one earned) in 5.1 in­nings of work in an 11-5 win over CCSU Fri­day at Baum-walker Sta­dium in Fayet­teville.

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