FAYETTEVILLE — In his first six games, about the only thing Tyler Spoon has not done for the Arkansas baseball team is get a big hit in a late-inning situation.
After Saturday, check that off the list.
Spoon, a redshirt freshman from Van Buren, blasted a grand slam in the bottom of the eighth to lift Arkansas to a 5-2 win over Evansville Saturday at Baum Stadium. With the win the top-ranked Razorbacks (6-1) take the series over the Aces (1-4) and can make it a three-game sweep with a victory in Sunday’s 1:05 p.m. series finale.
After Evansville rallied to tie the game in the top of the eighth, on a sacrifice fly by Jake Mahon, the Hogs answered in the bottom of the inning.
Willie Schwanke led off the inning with a single and was bunted to second by Brett McAfee. Jordan Farris then pinch ran for Schwanke, but didn’t score on Matt Vinson double off the left field wall when he slipped rounding third. Jacob Morris was hit
by a pitch to load the bases.
After taking a pitch, Spoon crushed a 1-0 offering over the bullpen and permanent seats in left field. Not a towering blast, but a line drive that left the park quickly, exciting the announced crowd of 3,371.
Hog reliever Trent Daniel, who came into the ninth to earn the save, saw the homer from the bullpen.
“I was in the pen so I got to see the moonrocket go by me,” Daniel said. “It was unreal to watch. It was the hardest ball I’ve ever seen hit from the bullpen.”
Hog coach Dave Van Horn saw it from the dugout.
“Tyler was looking for a pitch he could elevate and just try to stay out of the double play,” Van Horn said. “The second pitch was a fastball that was up and he hammered it. You cannot hit a ball harder than that.”
Spoon now has a seven-game hitting streak to start his Razorback career, to go along with his team-leading 13 RBIs and two home runs.
“It was a clutch hit and that is why we have him hitting in that part of the order,” Van Horn said. “He continues to drive in runs for us.”
Spoon said the Arkansas pitching staff shutting down the Evansville offense was the key to the victory as much as his home run.
“It was an awesome job by Barrett (Astin) and our pitching staff to keep us in the game and being in the position where one hit could put us in the lead,” Spoon said.
The Razorbacks also got a strong performance from lefty Trent Daniel, who earned a save getting the final two outs.
Evansville tried to mount a rally in the ninth against Hog closer Colby Suggs. The junior closer threw 25 pitches and struggled to find the plate, walking in a run before Van Horn went to Daniel.
After suffering the loss in a disappointing start against Western Illinois, Daniel struck out the first batter he faced before getting a weak groundout to end the game.
“We thought about using (Daniel) as another closer or late inning guy. He came into a tough, tough situation and got two quick outs,” Van Horn said. “Suggs had good stuff. He just had no command. He threw 25 pitching in one-third of an inning. We went
and got Daniel and I thought he threw really well.”
Hog starter Astin was dominate for six innings, tossing a two-hitter walking one and striking out five in just 75 pitches. Van Horn said Astin will at least get two more starts — one next weekend in Arizona and in two weeks against San Diego State.
“Barrett Astin threw extreme well. He had a few quick innings,” Van Horn said. “(Cade) Lynch gave us a good (seventh) inning. I almost went back to him (in the eighth) but I don’t want to push him yet.”
The Hogs had left 12 runners on base through the first seven innings, including the bases loaded twice.
“Offensive, it looked like early we were going to get after their starter early. We left some runners on,” Van Horn added. “Give them credit, they pitched us pretty well. I am just glad we were able to put together that big inning at the end.”
Though he gave up the game-tying run in the eighth, Razorback reliever Jalen Beeks (1-0) got the victory.
Eric Fisher gave the Hogs a 1-0 lead with an RBI single in the first, scoring Joe Serrano who had reached on a walk.