After splitting the first two games, the No. 1 Arkansas Razorbacks came back to win game three of the series against Georgia by coming back to win 5-3 on Sunday afternoon.
Starting pitching on Sunday remains an issue after the Hogs fell behind 3-0 with Caleb Bolden on the mound, and the offense was stifled through the first four innings. However, Kevin Kopps would come in to shut down the Bulldogs while the Hogs would score five unanswered runs behind a pair of home runs by Matt Goodheart and Jalen Battles to claim the rubber match.
As a result, the Razorbacks should maintain their status as the No. 1 team in the country in all of the polls on Monday morning.
Neither team would score in the first couple of innings with Caleb Bolden for Arkansas and Ryan Webb for Georgia.
The Hogs have been searching for the third guy in their starting rotation and Dave Van Horn settled upon Bolden who made his seventh start of the season. Bolden had a good performance a couple of weeks ago against South Carolina in a 6-1 victory. Van Horn chose him over Lael Lockhart who was pulled after less than one inning last week against LSU, and Jaxon Wiggins who was floated around as a potential starter but who had only pitched in relief this year.
Bolden wouldn’t last long however. He would give up a handful of singles including the game’s first RBI to Ben Anderson, and DVH would elect to bring in Caden Monke with two on in the third. Bolden finished by giving up three hits, one walk, and three strikeouts. Monke would get the next batter out, but Connor Tate, who is Georgia’s best hitter, would make him pay on a pitch he liked for a 2-RBI singe to make it 3-0.
Georgia had saved their ace Ryan Webb for game three on Sunday to try to capture the series. Webb reportedly had been held out to give him some rest following back spasms, but a bit of gamesmanship might be attributed to the decision. Nonetheless, for the first four innings, Arkansas could not get going against their starter. He would retire the side in the second and third, and his mix of pitches would keep the Hogs off balance.
However, the game and the series would turn in the fifth inning.
Matt Goodheart would start the rally with a double followed by a Casey Opitz single. Jalen Battles would then score both with a single as the Hogs recorded two runs on four hits in the frame.
Meanwhile, Van Horn would call upon his reliever Kevin Kopps to make an early appearance in an effort to lock down the pitching and hope the Razorback offense could make up the difference.
The timing was right as the Hogs would tie the game in the sixth on a solo home run blast by Goodheart that traveled about 460 feet. It was his 12th of the season, which leads the team.
In the seventh, Battles would step up again with a go-ahead solo shot of his own to dead center field to give the Hogs the 4-3 advantage. The home run was Battles’s first SEC homer of the year and the Razorbacks’ 78th overall, which still leads the nation.
Webb would leave the game after that, but the Hogs weren’t done yet. Christian Franklin would single to center to score another as Arkansas came back with five unanswered to lead 5-3.
Kopps would continue to pitch efficiently over the final four innings to close the game. He would diffuse a situation in the eighth with two runners on base by striking out the next two batters, and he sat the 1-2-3 order in the ninth.
Kopps only gave up three hits and had five strikeouts on 57 pitches. In the process, he lowered his ERA to 0.67 on the season and has allowed only four runs in almost the last 50 innings pitched.
Kopps got the win. Arkansas is now 36-9 overall and 17-7 in the SEC. With results elsewhere, Arkansas is tied with Tennessee for the lead in the conference.
Up next, the Hogs take on Arkansas State on Tuesday and then travel to Knoxville to determine who will be first in the league.