Baseball avoids sweep against Arkansas, but continues slump


Senior, Dorian Hairston rounds second during the game against the Florida Gators at Cliff Hagan Stadium in Lexington, Ky. on Saturday,March 26, 2016. Photo by Josh Mott | Staff.

Chris Angolia

No. 19 UK Baseball continued its offensive slump after dropping two of three games in its weekend series against the Arkansas Razorbacks.

The Cats’ struggles continued this weekend after blowing a late lead Tuesday to rival Louisville and dropping two of three at Vanderbilt last weekend. With the two losses, UK has now lost seven of its last nine games at an inopportune time.

Game one was the definition of a pitcher’s duel, with both starters going 9-plus innings and allowing one combined run that led the Razorbacks to a 1-0 victory.

Zack Brown turned out a tremendous performance, going 9.2 innings and allowing just one run on six hits with six strikeouts.

The 9.2 innings for Brown were a career high, but unfortunately for Brown, the one run was too much as he picked up the loss.

Chad Spanberger scored the lone run against Brown, leading off the 10th inning with a solo home run.

For the Razorbacks, Dominic Taccolini tossed a 10-inning complete game shutout, allowing just five hits and adding 10 strikeouts. The shutout by Taccolini marks the second straight Friday that the Cats’ counterpart has thrown a complete game shutout.

The lone bright spot of game one outside of Brown was Tyler Marshall, who stepped in for the injured Luke Becker and went 3-4.

Games two and three of the series on Saturday were limited to seven-inning contests because of the SEC’s rule regarding double headers.

In game two of the series, UK’s offense continued to struggle. It was unable to plate a run for the second straight game against Razorback starter Zach Jackson, who tossed a complete game shutout, allowed just two hits and added eight strikeouts.

The Razorbacks put together a two-run fourth inning which proved to be all that was necessary to hand Cats starter Dustin Beggs his first loss of the year. Beggs went all seven innings, allowing two runs on five hits with only one strikeout.

Jackson’s eight-strikeout performance in game two brought the Cats’ total number of strikeouts through 17 innings to 18, a surprising number for a team that does not strikeout often.

Kyle Cody got the start for the Cats in game three and struggled in the first, allowing a double and a triple to start the game. Following a groundout by Bonfield, the Cats found themselves down 2-0 but got one back in the second.

Heading into the seventh and final inning, the Cats trailed by one but were able to put baserunners on. With two outs and runners on the corners, Hairston hit a chopper up the middle that Riley Mahan beat out the tag at second, allowing Storm Wilson to score. Mahan then came in to score on a game-winning, Troy Squires single and gave the Cats a 5-4 victory.

This was Squires’ second straight weekend with a game-winning hit after a 3-RBI double last Sunday in the Cats’ win at Vanderbilt.

“A big thing going on with us is we’re just trying to gut it out, trying to grind it out. We’re struggling a little bit, but we just have to dig deeper,” Squires said. “(The walk-off) feels a little bit better, but I’m just happy we got the win.”  

Avoiding the sweep was big for UK — which has struggled recently on offense — and heading into the final quarter of its schedule, needs to pick things up before the SEC Tournament begins on May 24.

“Big picture, you feel pretty good. Obviously you would like to get back into a bit of a groove offensively on Tuesday and Wednesday,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said. “You’re 10-8 (in SEC play) with four weekends left and two of them are home and you’ve got good starting pitching.”

No. 19 UK (24-15) looks to get back on track when it hosts Dayton (14-26) 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Cliff Hagan Stadium.