Fayetteville, AR Story and photos by Mike Price
The Arkansas Razorbacks, number 1 seed in the Fayetteville Regional and overall number 5 seed in the country, hosted the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils in the first game Friday afternoon. The Hogs scored early and often throughout the game en route to a 11-5 win. Heston Kjerstad scored on a fielder’s choice by Casey Opitz and Jack Kenley scored on a wild pitch, both in the 2nd inning. In the 4th inning, both teams scored a run, C Connecticut on a sacrifice fly by TT Bowens, and Arkansas with a solo homer by Kjerstad, part of a 3 hit, 2 RBI and 2 run day for him.
In the 5th inning, the Hogs tacked on 3 more runs with Matt Goodheart hitting a RBI double scoring Trevor Ezell. Dominic Fletcher hit a single to right scoring Goodheart. Kjerstad came up and hit a double to right center scoring Fletcher but was also picked off trying to turn it into a triple. This put the Hogs up 6-1 through 5.
Central Connecticut added another run in the 6th but Arkansas would come back and answer with 3 more runs. This time the scoring started with Kenley being walked to start the inning then advanced to 2nd on a fielder’s choice. Jacob Nesbit walked. Christian Franklin hit a RBI single to center, scoring Kenley, then stole second. Ezell made it to first on an infield hit, scoring Nesbit and advancing Franklin to 3rd. Ezell then went on to steal second. Franklin ended up scoring on a throwing error by catcher Sam Loda. This made it 9-2 after 6,
The 7th inning was quiet as Central Connecticut went down in order and the Hogs managed one hit. In the 8th inning, the Blue Devils got a single from Matt Bertochi and a walk from Loda. Then TT Bowens came up to bat and smashed a 3 run homer over the left field wall, making it 9-5.
In the bottom of the 8th, the Hogs would answer again with another Franklin single followed by a stolen base then a 2 run homer from Ezell, part of his 3-5 day with 3 RBIs and 2 runs. That made the final score 11-5.
Pitcher Connor Noland got the win going 5 1/3 innings giving up only 2 hits and 1 run on 58 pitches. Noland was replaced in the 6th by Kevin Kopps who pitched into the 7th with 4 strike outs. He was replaced by Marshall Denton who finished the game, but did give up the 3 run homer to Bowens.
Next up, the Hogs play Saturday at 6 pm CST vs the winner of the TCU-California game.