The University of Alabama had its chances to take Sunday’s series finale from Arkansas. But the Crimson Tide also gave the Razorbacks some extra opportunities.
That was enough for No. 20 Arkansas (22-6, 7-2 SEC) to put Alabama (13-15, 2-7 SEC) away with an 8-5 win to clinch the series at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Alabama battled back twice to tie the game, but Arkansas’ final three runs in the top of the ninth were too much to overcome.
“There’s got to be a point where after we look at the weekend, we can’t say ‘There’s two or three plays or two or three pitches that cost us a win.’ We have to start winning those games,” head coach Greg Goff said. “If we’re going to make the postseason and do some things and win some series, we’ve got to be able to stop saying ‘Man, there’s two or three pitches or plays.'”
Arkansas’ late rally started when a ball dropped in left field, just between Alabama’s converging left fielder, third baseman and shortstop. The Razorbacks would eventually load the bases with two outs and drive in the game-winning runs with a single to right field. A third run scored on a wild pitch to add insurance.
Alabama trailed 3-0 after three innings, then 5-3 after six innings, but came back both times. Shortstop Chandler Avant was 4-5 with a double and an RBI, while designated hitter Kyle Kaufman was 2-4 with four RBIs. He had a three-run homer in the bottom of the third inning.
Arkansas retook control in the sixth inning thanks to a mistake from Alabama. A wild pitch on strike three put a runner aboard, followed by a walk. A ground ball that would have been the final out of the inning instead moved both runners into scoring position, and a single scored them both to make the score 5-3.
“We just tried to stay strong the best we could,” Arkansas coach Dave van Horn said. “We said it’s a long season and you just keep fighting. I told them win or lose I was going to be proud of them because we hung in there. It’s a lot better off that we came away with a win, and it’s a series on the road, so it’s huge for our team.”
Alabama responded in the seventh; Kaufman drove in a run with a single and the game was tied when Avant scored from third on a wild pitch. The Crimson Tide stayed close thanks to a strong relief effort from junior Garrett Suchey, who came in during the fourth and threw five innings. He threw 76 total pitches, leaving two runners on base when he exited in the top of the ninth.
“I can’t say enough about their resiliency,” Goff said of his players. “We just have to play a little cleaner.”
Starter Nick Eicholtz lasted 3 1/3 innings and allowed eight hits and three earned runs. He only issued one walk a week after issuing eight at South Carolina, but didn’t figure into the decision for the fifth straight week.
“I hate that we came out on the bad end of that thing,” Goff said. “I just thought we made a few too many mistakes. Gave them a few runs probably that we shouldn’t have. Things that we have to clean up as a coaching staff and get our guys to make those plays.”