Hogs handle CCSU in Fayetteville opener
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.
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.
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.