Arkansas baseball eliminated from SEC Tournament with loss to Kentucky | Whole Hog Sports (2024)

The Arkansas baseball team’s stay at the SEC Tournament was a short one.

Now the Razorbacks are hopeful they can make a run similar to the program’s last two teams to go 0-2 at the conference tournament, national semifinalists in 2012 and 2022.

Arkansas was eliminated with a 9-6 loss to Kentucky on Thursday at Hoover (Ala.) Metropolitan Stadium. It was the third consecutive loss for the Razorbacks (43-14) and second in as many days.

The team will return to Fayetteville after a nine-day road trip that began with last week’s final regular-season series at Texas A&M. Arkansas, expected to be one of the top eight seeds in the NCAA Tournament, will learn its regional bracket Monday.

“They will get back and rest up just a little bit,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “The message out there was: this is where we wanted to be as far as we know we're going to be in a regional, a really good opportunity to host. It's time to take a step forward. We kind of went backward a couple weeks ago, sideways. We've been up and down. We need to make a move and finish this thing up the right way.”

The Wildcats (40-13) advanced to play Friday in another elimination game against the winner of Thursday night’s game between LSU and South Carolina. Kentucky improved to 3-1 against Arkansas this season.

The Razorbacks and the Wildcats approached Thursday’s elimination game differently. Arkansas threw its ace Hagen Smith for two innings while Kentucky threw its No. 1 starter, Trey Pooser, for five.

Smith allowed two unearned runs in the first inning and took his first loss of the year. He threw 36 pitches.

Van Horn said Smith was “a little amped up” at the outset of his scheduled short start.

“That's about what we wanted him to throw right there — 35, 40 pitches, two to three innings, max,” Van Horn said. “We thought, hey, that's enough. So [it will] give him a little opportunity to have a couple days' rest more than normal leading into next weekend.”

Kentucky struck out 14 times in six innings against Smith on May 3. At the team breakfast Thursday, Kentucky coach Nick Mingione challenged the players to be aggressive against Smith.

“If you keep doing the same thing over and over and over again, expecting a different result, what's that called? Insanity, right?” Mingione said. “So we're like, ‘We’re not doing that.’ We might strike out again, but we're not going to strike out and get out the same way we did last time.”

Ryan Waldscmidt walked against Smith to lead off the game and advanced to second base on an errant pickoff throw to first base. Waldschmidt scored on a sacrifice bunt by Devin Burkes.

Emilien Pitre (single) scored on the Razorbacks’ second error of the inning when catcher Hudson White threw wide of third base trying to throw out Pitre on a steal attempt.

Center fielder Nolan McCarthy robbed Arkansas first baseman Ben McLaughlin of a home run with a leaping catch at the wall in the second inning.

“I thought Nolan’s play was huge,” Mingione said.

Ryan Nicholson and Waldschmidt hit solo home runs in the fourth and fifth innings against Arkansas reliever Gage Wood. It was the first of two 421-foot home runs for Waldschmidt, who went 2 for 4 with 3 runs and 3 RBI.

A two-run single by Nick Lopez in the fifth put the Wildcats ahead 6-0 and ended Wood’s day after 2 2/3 innings, 4 runs, 6 hits and 3 strikeouts.

Pooser allowed 3 hits and 1 walk and struck out 3 in 5 scoreless innings before the Razorbacks briefly made things interesting against Kentucky’s bullpen.

The first of two Peyton Holt home runs capped a four-run sixth inning against left-hander Jackson Nove to pull the Razorbacks within 6-4. Holt’s 365-foot home run to left field followed an RBI ground out by Wehiwa Aloy.

Peyton Stovall and Jared Sprague-Lott singled and Ben McLaughlin walked with one out to set up the big swing.

Nove issued a four-pitch walk to Ryder Helfrick after Holt’s home run. Right-hander Ryan Hagenow got out of the inning when Will Edmunson flied out representing the tying run.

Arkansas recorded nine hits for the second consecutive day, but struggled again to find a game-breaking swing. The Razorbacks stranded eight base runners.

“We’ve got to get more production up and down the lineup,” Van Horn said. “It's spotty right now.”

Kentucky tacked on three runs against Arkansas reliever Brady Tygart in the seventh inning to put the game away. Waldschmidt homered after Tygart committed Arkansas’ third error with a fielding miscue and Pitre (walk) scored on Mitchell Daly’s sacrifice fly following a pitching change to Mason Molina.

Tygart allowed 1 earned run with 1 hit, 1 walk and 1 hit batsman. He threw 18 of 29 pitches for strikes. Van Horn was pleased with Tygart's first inning but called the fielding error careless.

“The ball is hit off the end of the bat, spinning like a top, you don't field it with one hand, you field it with two,” Van Horn said. “You don't run away from it. The ball spun right out of his glove. When you’re older, you know that.”

The mistake was magnified when Tygart hung a 0-2 breaking pitch to Waldschmidt.

“That inning couldn't happen right there,” Van Horn said. “That was frustrating.”

Molina pitched well in relief for the second time in less than a week. He allowed a single, struck out 3 and threw 17 of 23 for strikes.

“I thought Molina threw really well the last two outings,” Van Horn said.

Holt hit a solo home run in the eighth and Sprague-Lott hit a solo home run in the ninth. It was Holt's first multi-home run game at the Division I level.

Why Arkansas lost

Three unearned runs were the difference on the scoreboard. The Razorbacks lacked timely hitting and rare defensive miscues cost them.

Player of the Game: Kentucky LF Ryan Waldschmidt

His patient at-bat against Hagen Smith helped start an important two-run first inning and he clobbered both home runs on a windy day.

Regional impact

Kentucky helped its case for the No. 1 overall seed by winning its nation-best 20th game against a team considered a Quad 1 opponent in RPI.

Arkansas did not help its national seed with a 4-7 close going into the regional round, but all 11 games were against teams that will play in the NCAA postseason, including 10 games against teams that will likely host a regional. The Razorbacks should be a solid top-8 seed which will ensure home-field advantage before the College World Series.

Up next

Regional host sites will be announced Sunday night and the full NCAA Tournament bracket will be unveiled Monday at 11 a.m. on ESPN2.

Arkansas baseball eliminated from SEC Tournament with loss to Kentucky | Whole Hog Sports (2024)


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