Razorbacks fall to Lipscomb in ‘probably one of our worst games of the year’

NORTH LITTLE ROCK — At 5:56 p.m. Tuesday night, the speaker requested a Hog Call.

With only a few patches of green grass to be seen on the berm surrounding the Dickey-Stevens Park field berm, 9,346 fans in cardinal and white rose to their feet and obeyed.

There was optimism, and rightly so. Just once in its last 11 visits to North Little Rock, Arkansas has come out on the losing side — a 5-4 loss at Memphis in 2015 — and the Razorbacks faced a Lipscomb team barely above .500 on the season.

But that was before a pitch was thrown.

The Bisons pulled off a midweek stunner against No. 6 Arkansas, going on to send it into extra innings before scoring twice in the top of the 11th to beat the Razorbacks 8-6.

With coach Dave Van Horne opting to pitch the bullpen, Arkansas needed nine pitchers to get through the night, and they combined to issue 11 walks, giving Lipscomb more than enough ammunition to complete the upset.

“Even if we had won the game, we didn’t play well at all,” Van Horn said. “We didn’t pitch well, we didn’t pitch well, we didn’t drive in runs. Defensively we kicked some balls [and] made a bad roll. Overall, this is probably one of our worst games of the year, to be honest.”

Things started to get dangerous for the Razorbacks in the top of the sixth inning. Arkansas (33-12) hadn’t scored since Harold Kohl’s 428-foot home run off the plate in left in the top of the first inning, and Lipscomb (24-21) has since tied the score at 3-3.

Ben Bybee, the fifth pitcher for the Hogs, loaded the bases with two singles and a walk, loading the bases for Bisons right fielder Will Lee.

Bybee walked Lee on five pitches, driving him in a run and forcing Van Horn to go to the bullpen again.

It was the second time the Razorbacks’ head coach had to pull one of his pitchers before recording an out — Christian Foutch walked two of the three batters he faced in the fourth, leading to a pair of Lipscomb runs.

“We had two kids that didn’t come out and that’s really it [hard]Van Horn said. “When you have limited weapons — I mean, we were out of the running. That was our last pitcher [in the 11th]. This game is tied, I don’t know what we would have done.”

Batesville’s Gage Wood replaced Bybee with the bases still loaded, and though he was able to get Arkansas out of the inning, the Bisons scored twice more — once on a wild pitch and again on a sacrifice fly — to go up 6-3.

The Razorbacks went down consecutively in the bottom of the sixth and only Jace Bohrofen reached base in the seventh on a hit.

But things started to change in the eighth. Ben McLaughlin led off with a double just down the left field line. After Coll’s hit, Jayson Jones walked and Hudson Polk was hit by a pitch, loading the bases with one out.

Van Horn turned to pinch-hitter Hunter Grimes, but he struck out, setting the stage for another pinch-hitter, Brady Slavens.

And without putting the bat on the ball, Arkansas tied the game.

A wild pitch got McLaughlin to score, and when Lipscomb catcher Chaz Bertolani overturned his pitcher, covering the home run, Jones raced down the line to score.

Another wild pitch with Slavens still at the plate allowed pinch runner Peyton Holt to sprint home. But with Slavens in scoring position after a Kendall Diggs layup and hit, Bohrofen pounced to end the threat.

That the Razorbacks were able to even extend the game was a credit to Austin Ledbetter.

The Bryant native pitched four innings, scattering three hits days after being left off the SEC roster over the weekend at Arkansas.

“It definitely got to me a little bit,” Ledbetter said of not being available for the weekend series against Texas A&M. “I just always want to be there for my team and I know I’m good enough to go out there and compete with any team in the country.”

The Razorbacks put men on base in the ninth and 10th innings, but were unable to capitalize. Short on arms, Van Horn sent McLaughlin — who started the game as Arkansas’ designated hitter — to the mound in the 11th.

McLaughlin got two outs, but only after Lipscomb led off with two walks. A single by cleanup fielder Trace Wilhoite gave the Bisons a 7-6 lead.

Jake Berg’s sacrifice bunt gave the visitors some insurance at 8-6, but it didn’t matter as the Razorbacks went in order in the home half of the 11th.

“There was a part of me that was glad there were only two left last week,” Van Horn said when asked if he was happy to be done with midweek games this season. “We don’t have enough [players]. We have three games this weekend.

“Until we get some guys healthy, we’ve got enough.”

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