FAYETTEVILLE — Jonathan Moroney hit a pinch-hit grand slam in the eighth inning and Texas A&M beat 12th-ranked Arkansas 5-3 Friday at Baum Stadium.
Barrett Astin and Brandon Moore combined to shut out the Aggies for the first six innings, but Texas A&M (22-17, 7-9 Southeastern Conference) scored one run off of Moore in the seventh before one swing by Moroney plated another four in the eighth.
“It was 3-1 and still under our control and more than anything, guys came out of our bullpen and other than Moore who did a great job, our bullpen just didn’t get it done tonight,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said.
Left-handed sophomore Jalen Beeks (4-1) began the eighth on the mound for Arkansas and struggled, allowing back-to-back hits to start the inning and walking another batter. With the bases loaded and one out, the Razorbacks elected to bring in Chris Oliver to face Moroney, a right-handed freshman pinch hitter.
On a 2-0 count, Moroney hit his second home run of the season in the form of a go-ahead grand slam over the left-center field wall.
“Well, coach comes up to me before the at-bat and says, ‘This guy’s going to be throwing hard. Just let him supply the power. Just put the bat on the ball and good things will happen,’” Moroney said. “He put me in because he believes in me and I believe in myself and the whole entire team was backing me on it. He just left one up in the zone and it felt great coming off the bat.”
Arkansas failed to answer. The Razorbacks’ last nine hitters in the game were retired in order. Arkansas was also out-hit 9-5 by Texas A&M and all five of the Razorbacks’ hits came in the first five innings of the game.
Brian Anderson, who started at third base, was the offensive highlight for Arkansas. The sophomore scored the first and third runs for Arkansas.
In the second inning, Anderson hit a lead-off double, Matt Vinson walked and both runners advanced on a wild pitch to put them in scoring position. Freshman second baseman Jordan Farris hit a sacrifice fly that allowed the pair to score.
Vinson’s run was unearned because Texas A&M second baseman Charlie Curl dropped the relay throw from the right fielder, Jace Statum. Curl was replaced at second by Andrew Vinson in the third inning.
Anderson scored again in the fourth after he led off the inning with another base hit, advanced to second on a balk and scored on a RBI double by Vinson.
“Most of his hits were leading off innings I think,” Van Horn said of Anderson. “He got us going, is what he did. I don’t know if he ever really came up with anybody on base in front of him, but he did a good job starting innings for us. He had a good night.”
Arkansas (25-15, 9-7 SEC) loaded the bases after Anderson scored the third run of the game, but Joe Serrano, who was the leadoff batter for the Razorbacks Friday, struck out with two outs to strand all three runners.
The Razorbacks recorded all three of their runs and all five of their hits against Daniel Mengden, who tossed six innings and struck out six batters. Still, Van Horn said Mengden working his way out of the bases-loaded jam helped give the Aggies a chance to win the game.
“We hit some balls hard, especially against the starter. We got his pitch count up,” Van Horn said. “He’s a good pitcher. He really is.
“We were one big hit away from breaking the game open and we didn’t get it. Give him credit. That’s why he’s a starter on Friday.”
Texas A&M reliever Zach Brashear (1-1) earned his first win of the season by retiring the only batter he faced to end the seventh.
Jason Jester recorded his 10th save of the season by pitching two perfect innings and striking out a pair of batters.
Astin started the game on the mound for the Razorbacks and stayed out of trouble for the most part, but he was replaced after allowing a double off the Arkansas bullpen in left field and issuing a five-pitch walk to the next batter.
“I know I didn’t have my best stuff tonight, I couldn’t command anything,” Astin said. “I was basically just out there competing and that got me through into the sixth inning.”
Astin tossed 5 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing five hits, walking four batters and striking out three.
Moore took over and struck out back-to-back batters to strand the runners.
The only run Moore allowed was unearned. He walked Statum in the seventh and the right fielder advanced two bases on an error on a pickoff play. Texas A&M shortstop Blake Allemand hit a RBI sacrifice fly to score the run.
The Razorbacks and the Aggies will play the second game of the series at 7:30 tonight at Baum Stadium.