Following a 1.5 hour rain delay, the No. 1 Arkansas Razorbacks took game one of their series at home versus the Georgia Bulldogs by outlasting them 3-0 on Friday night. Patrick Wicklander put in another solid performance for the Hogs by pitching for 5.2 scoreless innings with nine strikeouts, and Kevin Kopps came in for the final three innings once again to seal the victory.
While Liam Sullivan for Georgia would keep the Bulldogs within a run through the first seven innings in a fantastic starting debut, Arkansas would get just enough through Casey Opitz and Robert Moore who had the only RBIs of the game.
Game one turned out to be a surprising pitchers’ duel between Wicklander and the freshman Sullivan.
Wicklander had established himself as a reliable Friday night starter in recent weeks after pitching for almost 14 innings in his last two outings and only giving up one run. He would put in another dominant performance on Friday night. Georgia was able to get six hits off of Wicklander, but they could never get going largely due to the nine strikeouts he administered on the evening. For the third start in a row, he also avoided walking any batters. Wicklander’s ERA is now at 1.69 on the season.
Meanwhile, Sullivan was making his first career start on Friday for Georgia. It was a curious move considering teams usually put their ace on the mound for game one of the series, but Georgia instead elected to save their best regular starter for Sunday. With no pitcher listed for the Hogs on that day, Georgia appeared to be willing to sacrifice game one while looking to at least steal game three.
However, Sullivan did not look like a pitcher making his first collegiate start. At first, he would give up three hits over the first two innings, including an RBI double to Casey Optiz that scored Robert Moore.
Nonetheless, that would be it for the next four innings as the Hogs could not manage to get a hit off of any of Sullivan’s fastballs. The freshman would finish with 11 strikeouts and only one walk on 83 pitches.
However, in the seventh, Georgia would have to bring in a new pitcher in Jack Gowen. The Razorbacks would quickly load the bases, but they could not convert any runs. After two infield pop-ups, Christian Franklin was thrown out at home following a wild pitch as the Hogs missed a big opportunity to break the game open.
Collin Caldwell would replace Gowen in the next inning, and again the Hogs would load the bases. Facing two outs, Arkansas appeared like they might have to hold on to a 1-0 lead heading into the ninth, but Moore would add a pair of insurance runs on a hit that he simply poked at to put into play.
Kevin Kopps would be brought in for the final three innings, and although he would give up a few hits uncharacteristically by his standards, he would see the game through to its conclusion.
The NCBWA national pitcher of the month continues to lead the nation in ERA and lowered it to 0.74 after Friday night.
Kopps got the save. Wicklander got the win. Arkansas is now 35-8 overall and 16-6 in the SEC. The Hogs still maintain a one-game lead over the next closest teams in the conference.
Up next, the Hogs take on Georgia on Saturday at 6 pm.