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Arkansas and Hagen Smith dismantle Kentucky baseball in game one

Travis Fannon
Kentucky Wildcats infielder Ryder Giles (1) pitches the ball during the No. 13 Kentucky vs. Xavier baseball game on Tuesday, April 18, 2023, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 13-2. Photo by Travis Fannon | Staff

Hagen Smith and No. 2 Arkansas (40-7, 17-5 SEC) dominated No. 8 Kentucky baseball (33-10, 16-6 SEC) in game one of a three game series by a score of 10-3 Friday.

Smith entered the game billed as one of the best pitchers in the country and lived up to the billing in his six innings in which he struck out 14 Wildcats. 

Kentucky outfielder Ryan Waldschmidt swings during the Kentucky vs Louisville baseball game on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Jim Patterson Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky. Kentucky won 17-13. Photo by Isaiah Pinto | Staff (Isaiah Pinto)

“He did to us what he’s done everybody else and, quite frankly, I thought we’d have better at bats on that but he got us 14 times in six innings,” Kentucky head coach Nick Mingione said.

Trey Pooser tried to match Smith for the Wildcats and was successful in the first two innings as both arms tossed scoreless innings.

Pooser got a lead on Smith after a scoreless third as Devin Burkes singled and stole second before Ryan Waldschmidt doubled to give the Cats a 1-0 lead.

Both hurlers tossed scoreless fourth innings before Pooser ran into trouble in the fifth when Hudson White hit a leadoff double and advanced to third on a wild pitch before being brought home on a Peyton Stovall double that tied the game at 1-1.

The Wildcat offense had a chance to take the lead back in fifth as Nolan McCarthy walked, advanced to second on a Patrick Herrera sacrifice bunt and stole third, but Smith struck out Burkes and Waldschmidt to end the inning.

Pooser returned to the mound in the sixth and got one out before walking Peyton Holt and Ryder Helfrick, which ended his night on the mound. Cameron O’Brien came on and gave up a double to Kendall Diggs, which gave the Razorbacks a 3-1 lead. O’Brien was relieved by Jackson Nove, who gave up a double to Ross Lovich, which scored Diggs and gave the Hogs a 4-1 lead.

Kentucky Wildcats outfielder Nolan McCarthy (19) is walked with bases loaded during the Kentucky vs. Morehead State baseball game on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 15-1. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff (Jack Weaver)

Smith returned to the mound for Arkansas with a three-run lead in the sixth and walked Émilien Pitre, but quickly nullified the threat by striking out Grant Smith, Reuben Church and Mitchell Daly to end the inning.

“(His) stuff is just really good,” Mingione said. “The fastball command, the fastball movement, the slider is a really good pitch.”

The Wildcats’ bullpen unraveled in the seventh as Nove gave up a single to Diggs, which scored Jared Sprague-Lott, before being relieved by Cooper Robinson, who immediately gave up an RBI single to White. Robinson then walked Lovich to load the bases, which he followed up by walking Stovall and Sprague-Lott to bring home two more runs.

The sixth and final run of the inning came when Robinson spiked a pitch, allowing Lovich to score, which brought the score to 10-1 Razorbacks.

“We just didn’t make enough pitches,” Mingione said. “We got where we kind of lost the strike zone and it ended up costing us.”

The Wildcats plated two runs in the bottom of the ninth when Daly scored on a wild pitch and Burkes singled to score Nolan McCarthy to make the score 10-3.

“We’ll need to come out tomorrow and try to stay on the attack,” Mingione said. “(We’re) at our best where we’re pitching at a high level, defending at a high level and just (being an) absolute grinder at bats, that’s what we gotta get back to.”

Kentucky will look to even the series in game two against Arkansas on Saturday, May 4, with first pitch scheduled for 2 p.m. ET. 

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Jonathon Bruner, Assistant Sports Editor

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