FAYETTEVILLE — After a 12-0 start the nationally No. 1 Arkansas Razorbacks open their SEC baseball season 12-2 for their first 14 non-conference games.
Following Sunday’s 2-0 loss to Louisiana Tech while winning the series 2 of 3 in Ruston, La., the Razorbacks, lost, 8-5 Tuesday evening to the Oklahoma Sooners at Baum-Walker Stadium where they will host SEC West rival Alabama at 6:30 p.m. Friday, 6:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Other than first baseman Brady Slavens, 3 for 4 with four RBI on a first-inning 2-run first inning single and following Greenbrier’s Cayden Wallace’s 2-out single with a sixth-inning 2-run home run off winning starter Braden Carmichael, and Robert Moore’s eighth-inning solo home run off lefty reliever Jarret Godman, the Razorbacks couldn’t generate the offense to match the Sooners whose .306 team batting average belies an ordinary 9-7 record.
The often pitching poor Sooners got what they needed from Carmichael through six innings and a dramatic save from Jason Ruffcorn.
“Carmichael did a really nice job for them,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “He struggled in the first then gave them four really good innings there, second through the fifth.”
Slavens greeted Ruffcorn with a ninth-inning single followed by OU first baseman Tyler Hardman’s throwing error trying for a forceout on Casey Opitz’s grounder. Three times that allowed Arkansas having tying run at the plate. Three times, against Cullen Smith, pinch-hitter Ethan Bates and Zach Gregory, Ruffcorn and his 98 miles per fastball struck out that potential tying run.
With Arkansas starter Patrick Wicklander, three walks, pitching only into the third inning, the Sooners and their scoring five runs with two outs attack inflicted the damage on early relievers Kole Ramage, four runs, four hits and a walk against a strikeout in one inning, Evan Gray, two hits and a run for one-third inning, one run off Elijah Trest for two innings and two runs and a hit off Zack Morris for one-third of an inning.
The Sooners’ 11 hits included Breydon Daniel’s 2-run home run.
“Our starting pitching only gave us a couple innings and first couple guys out of the pen really struggled,” Van Horn said. “You can give them (the Sooners) credit, too. Their offense did a nice job of laying off borderline pitches. It's hard to overcome a five-run inning, especially when they score all five with two outs and you're one pitch away from getting out of the inning and throw a curveball and leave it down the middle.”
Razorbacks relievers Kevin Kopps. Ryan Costeiu, Caden Monke, Jaxon Wiggins and Evan Taylor finished unscored upon.
“I guess the positive thing that I saw was Kopps, Costeiu, Monke, Wiggins and Taylor all pitched really well,” Van Horn said. “Hopefully we can build off that a little bit.”
Is he concerned starting the SEC season off two defeats?
“We know we’re going to lose games,” Van Horn said. “We’re playing a really good schedule against really good teams. We're not nearly as good as we can be. That's probably the most disappointing thing. We've got some older guys hitting .250... .255... .245. Those guys have got to get it going. They know who they are. Hopefully, we'll kick it into gear."