Even the hole Patrick Wicklander found himself in after one inning wasn’t too deep for this Arkansas team to claw out to a 6-5 win in the first game against Tennessee on Friday night.
Vols radio announcer John Wilkerson had said on ESPN Arkansas’ Halftime on Friday afternoon this was the biggest series in the history of the program.
And after one inning Tennessee was leading 5-0 and appeared set to run it up higher.
But they couldn’t get another single run the rest of the way.
“It was a good win,” Dave Van Horn said later.
Wicklander started and had his worst outing in awhile, not making it out of the third inning. He gave up six hits, walked two and struck out just two.
“They did a good job against Wicklander and the zone was really tight tonight,” Van Horn said. “He got behind in the count and they did a good job. They were on the ball.”
The result was it appeared at times in the first inning a track meet had broken out on the bases.
Caden Monke came on, got out of the third inning and didn’t give up a hit over the next 3.1 innings. That helped.
The Hogs also got the offense going.
By the end of the third inning Robert Moore’s two-run homer got Arkansas on the board and Brady Slaven’s two-run homer in the third made it a one-run game in the third,5-4.
“Our offense was able to chip away with a couple of big two-run homers and just enough to get us back in it,” Van Horn said. “The middle of our order did a great job: Wallace, Slavens. Moore drove in three runs.”
Cayden Wallace’s single in the fifth tied the game and Monke wasn’t giving up anything. Then Kevin Kopps came in and even without his usual sharpness, managed to hold off any Tennessee rallies.
“The bullpen was outstanding,” he said.
It was Moore’s deep sacrifice fly to center in the eighth that scored Slavens with the winning run and Kopps managed to do enough with an unusual strike zone for the win.
The Hogs, now 38-9 on the regular season, also got some help in Starkville on Friday night with Missouri downing Mississippi State, 7-6.
Arkansas now has a 1.5-game lead over the Bulldogs in the SEC West and a 1-game lead over Tennessee for the top seed in the SEC Tournament in a couple of weeks.
The two teams will play again Saturday morning at 11 a.m.
Pregame coverage with Phil Elson starts at 10:30 a.m. and you can listen HERE or on radio at ESPN Arkansas 95.3 in the River Valley, 96.3 in Hot Springs and 104.3 in Harrison-Mountain Home.