Arkansas came into the weekend ranked second in the SEC in most offensive batting categories, and they showed why on Saturday evening in Fayetteville.
The No. 6 Razorbacks had three innings with four-plus runs and cruised to a 15-3 victory over Tennessee at Baum-Walker Stadium. Five Arkansas players recorded a multi-hit game on the way to an 18-hit game for the Hogs. The attack was led by Casey Martin and Heston Kjerstad, who both homered and drove in five runs apiece.
Garrett Stallings got the start on the mound for Tennessee but did not have a good outing. He was taken out of the game after just 3.2 innings, his shortest outing of the season. Stallings was coming off two of his best starts of the season, only allowing one run over his previous 16 innings pitched. However, the Razorbacks got the best of him, tallying eight runs on 10 hits in less than four innings. That was the season high in runs allowed for Stallings, who fell to 7-3 on the year.
“The air was thin tonight, but we knew that in batting practice,” Tennessee coach Tony Vitello said. “Garrett Stallings has been phenomenal for us all year, but he ran into a hot lineup.”
On the other side, Arkansas’s starter Patrick Wicklander was dominant through five innings, allowing just one hit before having his shutout bid broken up in the sixth inning. The freshman gave up only two runs on four hits and struck out seven in 5.2 innings and improved to 4-1 on the season.
“He had command, and that was kind of the deal. If he is on, he is special,” Vitello said. “I know he had a couple of outings that were not up to par for him, because he’s got phenomenal stuff, but you got to command it and he did that right out of the get-go.”
Tennessee was able to get on the board in the sixth inning off Wicklander, but it was a little too late. Jay Charleston led off the inning with a single to right field and stole second base before advancing to third on a groundout. Al Soularie drove him in with a two-out double to left field and came across to score on a single by Evan Russell.
There were a few bright sides for the Tennessee offense, including a solid night by a freshman. On the night, Christian Scott was the only Volunteer to record multiple hits on the night after entering the game in the seventh inning as a pinch hitter. In his two at-bats, Scott went 2-for-2 with a single and a double. Tennessee’s three RBIs came from Soularie, Russell, and Zach Daniels on the night.
Arkansas got the scoring started on the evening in the third, as the Razorbacks got to Stallings to tally for four runs in the inning. The inning began with a leadoff home run by Jordan McFarland to open the scoring for the game. The Hogs followed with a double and a bunt single before another home run by Martin put Arkansas up 4-0.
The Razorbacks struck for four more runs in the fourth to bust the game open. The Razorbacks had six hits in the fourth and sent all nine batters to the plate to extend the lead to 8-0. After Tennessee scored their two runs in the sixth to cut into the lead, Arkansas responded with a solo by Kjerstad in the bottom of the sixth.
Unfortunately for the Vols, Kjerstad wasn’t done, as he homered again in the seventh to cap off a five-run inning for the Hogs offense to put them up 14-2.
“He (Kjerstad) has power to all parts of the field. Like every hitter, his is a mistake hitter so if you make a bad pitch he is going to hit it over the scoreboard,” Vitello said. “He is a special talent that had a good night.”
Daniels hit his third home run of the season to lead off the eighth inning to score Tennessee’s final run of the evening, but it was too little, too late for the Vols, who has not been able to stop the Arkansas offense in the first two games of the series, allowing 26 runs over the past two games.
Tennessee came into the weekend with the best pitching staff in the SEC, with an ERA of 2.68. Over the past two games, Tennessee has struggled getting outs against the Razorback offense.
Tennessee will look to salvage a game in tomorrow’s series finale after dropping the first two against Arkansas. First pitch for the final game of the series is set for 5 p.m. in Fayetteville.