Razorbacks’ five-run fifth enough to take down Alabama in series opener


Courtesy of UA Athletics

Alabama center fielder Caden Rose (7) is congratulated by his teammates in the Crimson Tide’s 7-3 loss to the No. 7 Arkansas Razorbacks on May 19 at Sewell-Thomas Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Austin Hannon | @austin_hannon1, Sports Editor

After four innings, the Alabama Crimson Tide (27-25, 10-17) felt in control.

The Crimson Tide led 3-0, and starting pitcher Garrett McMillan was perfect on the mound.

That was until the fifth inning, when the No. 7 Arkansas Razorbacks (38-14, 18-10) busted the game open scoring five runs en route to a 7-3 Game 1 victory at Sewell-Thomas Stadium Thursday night.

“Tough loss tonight,” Alabama head coach Brad Bohannon said. “I actually thought we did some really good things. We out-hit them. We got off to a 3-0 lead, but probably left a little meat on the bone it probably could have been four or five. I think the obvious difference in the game is that Arkansas got three big hits with people on base.”

With two outs on the ledger in the fifth inning, the Razorbacks hit two home runs. First was a two-run shot off the bat of first baseman Peyton Stovall. Then, after a single and a walk, third baseman Cayden Wallace sent a three-run bomb over the wall in left field to cap off an impressive inning.

Prior to the fifth inning explosion, McMillan retired the first 12 Arkansas batters. But after throwing 5.1 innings, he had watched five guys cross the plate. McMillan walked one and struck out four.

“I thought Garrett [McMillan] was Garrett [McMillan],” Bohannon said. “I’m not sure what happened on those two home runs. He was awesome for four innings.”

The Razorbacks picked up two more key runs with two outs in the ninth, when shortstop Jalen Battles ripped a two-run double into the gap in right center.

After a few impressive relief appearances, Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn went with RHP Will McEntire to start the series opener. Alabama jumped on him early, plating three runs on eight hits in the first four innings.

After that, the Crimson Tide offense went quiet. Alabama only recorded two more hits in the final five innings, and thus fell farther down the bubble.

Center fielder Caden Rose is still getting used to his new leadoff role. The sophomore went 3-for-4 on Thursday night, picking up a double and an RBI. The other red-hot Alabama bat, right fielder Andrew Pinckney, also recorded multiple hits going 2-for-3 with a double.

“Those two guys have been a bright spot, especially in the past month,” Bohannon said. “If you watch Caden [Rose] and Andrew [Pinckney], the biggest difference is that they’re laying off those breaking balls out of the strike zone. Their pitch recognition is night and day better than it was a few weeks ago. We’ve got to get some more guys to do that as well.” 

Alabama’s spot in the SEC Tournament is still in question following the loss. The Crimson Tide came into the weekend series in 11th place in the SEC, with the top 12 teams qualifying for the annual tournament in Hoover, Alabama. Missouri picked up its ninth conference win with an 11-3 victory at Georgia, while Mississippi State (26-28, 9-19) was annihilated 27-2 by No. 1 Tennessee in Knoxville.

The other contender, the Kentucky Wildcats (28-23, 10-17), will have to wait another day to start its series with No. 19 Auburn. After Game 1 was postponed due to weather, the two will play a double-header on Friday in Lexington before finishing the series on Saturday.

Alabama will look to even the series on Friday at 7 p.m. CT on the SEC Network. RHP Jacob McNairy (4.60 ERA) will be on the mound for the Crimson Tide.

“Arkansas is really good,” Bohannon said. “They’re ranked in the top-10 for a reason. Tomorrow when we get two guys on, at some point someone’s got to hit a double or a homer. To see a ground ball and a flare is nice, but to put up a crooked number, it takes five or six of those in an inning and that’s pretty tough against a team as good defensively as they are.”