The No. 1 Arkansas Razorbacks won the second game of the Fayetteville regional versus the Nebraska Cornhuskers by controlling them in a 5-1 victory on Saturday night. Patrick Wicklander put in another solid performance for the Hogs by pitching for five scoreless innings with seven strikeouts, and Kevin Kopps came in for the final four innings to once again seal the victory.
Arkansas would take a 3-0 lead in the first couple of innings but never could break the game open with only five total hits on the evening. Still, 10 walks and two errors were enough to get men on base which created runs and propelled the Razorbacks to Sunday night where they await the winner of the elimination game between Nebraska and NJIT.
The Hogs wasted no time getting on the board on Saturday night. Matt Goodheart led off the order with a solo home run that he deposited into the Hog Pen for Arkansas’s 99th homer of the season, which is a new school record.
The Hogs would add two more in the next inning off of Nebraska starting pitcher and Rollie Fingers impersonator Chance Hroch. After Charlie Welch and Jalen Battles got on base, Braydon Webb delivered again with a big hit to right field to bring one home. Another came in following a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Cayden Wallace, and Arkansas took an early 3-0 lead after two innings.
Meanwhile, Patrick Wicklander got the call for the second game of the regional, and the Hogs’ ace on the mound delivered. The fastball was working for him as he was able to get several batters to chase it. He actually became better as the game progressed, and at one point, he had retired seven in a row.
He would also receive some help from Jalen Battles along the way.
However, Hroch would match Wicklander’s streak of retired batters as the Hogs struggled to get hits in the later innings. Nebraska made a pitching change to get out of a pinch with runners on the corners in the fourth. They would make another change in the fifth to get out of a situation with a runner in scoring position again as the Huskers limited the damage.
Still, the lack of much offense meant that time was running out for Nebraska. After 92 pitches, Wicklander was pulled, and in came Kevin Kopps again after making an appearance on Friday. Wicklander went five innings and gave up two hits, two walks, and had seven strikeouts. His ERA is now 2.17 on the year.
The Huskers finally got on the board after an RBI single by Luke Raskam scored a man on second, but that would be it for them.
Arkansas added to its lead in the sixth to make it 5-1 despite not recording a single hit in the inning. An error and two walks loaded the bases for Nebraska’s fourth pitcher Jake Bunz, and he would gift the Hogs a run by walking Christian Franklin. A second would score after the ball got away from the catcher. Bunz threw eight straight balls and would be pulled soon after.
As for Kopps, he would see out the remainder of the game despite a rising pitch count against Nebraska’s hitters. He would finish with 71 pitches and now has 95 total over the first two games of the regional. The Sheriff gave up three hits and had six strikeouts over the final four innings as he now owns an ERA of 0.70.
Could we see Kopps again on Sunday? It’s possible, but I can’t see him pitching more than an inning or two at most. Still, Dave Van Horn will take the guaranteed wins whenever he can get them in a sport as unpredictable as baseball.
Wicklander got the win. Kopps got the save. Arkansas is now 48-10 overall.
Up next, Arkansas plays either Nebraska or NJIT on Sunday at 8 pm with a chance to move on to the super regional.