Razorbacks overcome walks to nip Cornhuskers


FAYETTEVILLE — Nebraska’s lineup had done a solid job at the plate this season, entering its two-game series at Arkansas with a .311 team batting average.

The Razorbacks weren’t exactly perfect in their performance on the mound against the Cornhuskers on Tuesday night. But it was enough to squeeze out a 4-3 win in front of an announced crowd of 2,922 in Baum Stadium.

Arkansas starter Colin Poche and relievers Zach Jackson and Michael Gunn equaled a season-high with eight walks, but the trio limited Nebraska to a season-low two hits in the win. None of the hits came after the second inning.

“We held them down a little bit,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “The pitchers did a good job. The whole issue was that we walked people and we normally don’t walk people. … That was a little disappointing. Feel very fortunate to win the game when you walk that many people. In this modern day with these bats and balls the way they are, if you walk seven you’re going to get beat 9 out of 10 times.

“Just a good job by our pitchers pitching out of jams.”

Poche allowed both hits and walked five during his 4 1/3 innings Tuesday, struggling at times to record outs.

The Cornhuskers (15-13) took a 2-0 lead in the second inning when shortstop Steven Reveles singled to score Tanner Lubach. Ryan Boldt — who walked to reach base — scored the second run after an error by outfielder Joe Serrano.

But Arkansas (18-10) answered in the third inning after Andrew Benintendi and Joe Serrano collected back-to-back hits. Second baseman Brian Anderson loaded the bases when he laid down a bunt single, bringing outfielder Tyler Spoon to the plate.

The sophomore hit a double down the left field line to tie the game at 2-2.

“(Hitting coach Tony) Vitello mentioned this before the season started: the bigger the situation the more relaxed you need to be,” Spoon said. “That’s the approach I try to take. Try to be relaxed because sometimes you can let the moment get to you. That’s when you over swing and try to do too much. When you relax you produce.”

Designated hitter K.J. Wilkerson and first baseman Eric Fisher followed Spoon’s double with sacrifice flies off Nebraska starter Jake Hohensee (0-3), helping Arkansas take a 4-2 lead.

“We made contact. We got our share of hits,” said Van Horn, whose team scored two runs in the final two games of the Mississippi State series. “We put together a great inning and that was really good to see.”

It held up even though Poche and Jackson had to work out of a few tight spots.

Nebraska got one run back in the fifth after Poche walked two batters and was replaced by Jackson. An RBI groundout by Michael Pritchard cut the deficit to 4-3, then Jackson struck out Lubach to end the threat.

“The thing was just get a ground ball right there and see if we could get a double play right there and we couldn’t,” Jackson said. “We stranded one guy and one guy scored, but we were still able to keep the lead after that and we were OK.”

It was one of Nebraska’s seven strikeouts Tuesday.

The Cornhuskers stranded five runners in the loss.

“When you play a quality team you can’t stub your toe,” Nebraska coach Darin Erstad said. “You have to get bunts down, you have to take dirt ball reads. You have to do the little things to win those type of games. When you don’t, you lose by one.”

It helped Arkansas begin a busy week — the Razorbacks are playing five games in five days — with another one-run win. Arkansas is now 5-6 in one-run games.

The teams will meet again at 1:35 today to wrap up the series.

Arkansas will send right-hander Alex Phillips (2-0) to the mound, while Nebraska will start Kyle Kubat (1-1). The lefty started and threw five innings against Arkansas last season, combining with two other pitchers to no-hit the Razorbacks.

“He a tremendous job,” Van Horn said. “Features that fastball, but he really likes that changeup too and breaking ball and he competes hard. So it will be a big challenge.”