The No. 1 Arkansas Razorbacks lost their first game of the Fayetteville regional versus the Nebraska Cornhuskers in a 5-3 defeat on Sunday night. The game went back and forth through the first several innings, but after the Huskers were able to retake the lead, the arrival of the reigning Big Ten player of the year, Spencer Schwellenbach, to the mound in the fifth inning sealed the game for Nebraska as the Hogs could only generate four total hits in the game and committed three errors.
Thus, everything comes down to Monday night as the two sides meet again to determine who will move on to the super regional.
Nebraska jumped out to an early lead this time on only their second at-bat of the game. Jaxon Hallmark hit a solo home run off of Arkansas starting pitcher Lael Lockhart to deep center field punctuated by a stamp at home plate.
The lead would be short-lived. After going through the lineup once, the Hogs started to make adjustments to Nebraska pitcher Kyle Perry. Perry was a bit of a surprise start given he had only pitched six total innings all season and was coming off of Tommy John surgery. However, he did make a few appearances towards the end of the year.
Nonetheless, Jalen Battles drew a walk, and Matt Goodheart advanced him to third with a single. Freshman Cayden Wallace followed with a line drive off a fastball to tie the game. After he advanced to second on a fielding error, Arkansas would take a 3-1 lead on a wild pitch by Perry that scored him and Goodheart. The speedy Wallace flew around the bases and reached home on a throwing error by the catcher.
Huskers can't handle the heat.— Arkansas Baseball (@RazorbackBSB) June 7, 2021
The Huskers would get one back in the bottom of the third. Hallmark delivered another RBI, and this time it was a sacrifice fly to score a runner on third to cut the score to a 3-2 deficit.
The Hogs were able to get out of the inning on an alert play by Lockhart who covered third and tagged out Spencer Schwellenbach after the attempt to Brady Slavens at first was late.
However, Schwellenbach would get Lockhart back in the fifth. He would take advantage of a breaking ball to tie the game and score Joe Acker. With that, Ryan Costeiu entered the game with two in scoring position. Lockhart finished after giving up eight hits and four earned runs and had five strikeouts.
Griffin Everitt followed with a hit just beyond the reach of Robert Moore to give the Huskers the lead again with a 2-RBI single, and Arkansas trailed 5-3.
* KNOCK * KNOCK * DELIVERY— Nebraska Baseball (@Husker_Baseball) June 7, 2021
GRIFF'S AT THE DOOR
⚡️ & HE'S GOT A TWO-RUN LEAD FOR THE BIG RED pic.twitter.com/oTrEFjdnTb
Schwellenbach then moved from shortstop to reliever for the final four innings, and he put on a Kevin Kopps-like performance to close out the game. He would retire 11 out of 12 batters at one point and hold the Hogs scoreless. Schwellenbach would only allow one hit and two walks along with recording four strikeouts.
The Hogs were able to hold the Huskers with Costeiu and Connor Noland in the later innings, but they still trailed heading into the ninth.
Christian Franklin tried to start a rally with a leadoff walk and would eventually advance to third. Cullen Smith walked to put the tying run on first, but a pop-up by Jalen Battles ended the Hogs’ hopes of a Sunday celebration.
Schwellenbach got the win. Lockhart got the loss. Arkansas is now 48-11 overall.
Now it all comes down to Monday at 6 pm.
The question is who will be pitching for both teams? Schwellenbach threw 65 pitches and has 94 total on the weekend. Kevin Kopps was not used on Sunday but has thrown 95 total pitches since Friday. Kopps is unlike almost any other pitcher in the country and even though he has thrown almost as many pitches as a starter on a good day, he still has enough juice to probably put in a few innings of work on a day’s rest.
Meanwhile, who should get the start? Caleb Bolden only threw for 1.1 innings on Friday in a rocky performance, but he is still fresh. Jaxon Wiggins also has been a name that has been thrown around. Honestly, could we even consider starting Kopps? Dave Van Horn has previously admitted that he could be used as a starter but that he is much more effective as a reliever.
Only one thing is certain- the Hogs will need him in some capacity if they want to advance and keep their season alive in a winner-take-all game on Monday.