FAYETTEVILLE -- Sophomore catcher Casey Opitz was one of the few University Arkansas baseball players who hadn't been pounding Tennessee pitching this weekend.
Of the Razorbacks' first 41 hits against the Vols, Opitz had one -- a single on Friday night.
Optiz was 1 of 13 in the series, and his batting average had dropped to .226 when he came up in the 10th inning of Sunday's game with runners runners on first and second.
"He hadn't had a great series offensively, but he's got a knack for getting big hits," Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. "We kind of sensed that he was going to get it."
Opitz lined a double over third baseman Andre Lipcius into left field that scored Jack Kenley and lifted the No. 7 Razorbacks to a 4-3 victory over No. 18 Tennessee before an announced crowd of 7,040 at Baum-Walker Stadium.
"I got up there and just kind of flushed all the at-bats I had before," Opitz said. "I was just looking for my pitch to hit and I got one and I did what I could with it."
It was the second game-winning hit for Opitz in an SEC game this season. He had an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning to give Arkansas a 3-2 victory and a sweep of Missouri after not having a hit in the series.
"I'm a good hitter," Opitz said. "You've got to believe that or nothing is going to happen for you."
Opitz hit a 2-0 fastball Redmond Walsh, who went the final 5 1/3 innings for Tennessee.
"Took what he gave me and produced," Opitz said. "It was a fastball down the middle."
Tennessee Coach Tony Vitello said Opitz did a good job of taking advantage of a hitter's count.
"He was facing a guy that's a little fatigued," Vitello said. "To be honest with you, it was kind of on a tee for him. But it still doesn't make it easy in that situation. You've got to do the work and he did a nice job with that pitch.
"Off the bat I thought Andre was going to jump and catch it, but he hit it hard enough and it had enough backspin that it went over Andre's head."
Walsh, a left-hander who came into the game with 7 saves and a 0.35 earned run average in 26 innings, doubled his previous career-long outing of 2 2/3 innings against Vanderbilt earlier this season. But Vitello said he didn't consider taking Walsh out of the game.
"No," Vitello said. "He would have killed me."
Arkansas freshman left fielder Christian Franklin hit 2-1 fastball from Walsh for a home run just inside the right-field pole with one out in the ninth inning to tie the game at 3-3.
"Going up to the plate I just wanted to put a good swing on the ball," said Franklin, who hit his fifth home run. "Luckily, I got a good pitch to hit and was able to drive it out of the park.
"My blood was rushing really fast. I didn't have any control over what I was saying. I went into the dugout screaming 'Let's go!' to my teammates."
Vitello, a former Arkansas assistant coach, said he had predicted before the series that someone would hit a home run in that spot.
"For whatever reason balls tuck into that right-field corner and guys will hit homers, and that's what [Franklin] did," Vitello said. "He stung that thing pretty good. It wasn't like it was a cheapie."
Tennessee scored two runs with two outs in the eighth inning to take a 3-2 lead.
Justin Ammons hit an RBI single off Arkansas closer Matt Cronin -- who replaced Marshall Denton -- to score Jake Rucker from third base to tie it 2-2. Ammons then stole second base and scored on Lipcius' single.
Arkansas, which took a 1-0 lead on Kenley's home run in the second inning off Tennessee starter Zach Linginfelter, scored just one run after loading the bases with one out in the fifth when Walsh got Dominic Fletcher to hit into a double play.
"As coach when you see that and you're like, 'That's going to come back and hurt us,' " Van Horn said. "It just seemed like maybe today was Tennessee's day."
Instead, the Razorbacks (34-11, 15-6 SEC) completed a sweep of the Vols (31-14, 9-12) and won their seventh consecutive conference game to lead the SEC West by two games over LSU, Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
"I feel great about it, because you've got to take the wins when you can get them," Van Horn said. "You never know when it's going to flip on you."
Arkansas starter Connor Noland, a freshman right-hander from Greenwood, went 7 innings and held Tennessee to 1 unearned run, 2 hits and 1 walk with a career-high 10 strikeouts.
"I thought Connor Noland was lights out," Van Horn said. "The guy had everything working."
Arkansas relievers Kevin Kopps, Kole Ramage and Jacob Kostyshock were unavailable because they had already pitched this weekend, Van Horn said, and he found out a few minutes before Sunday's game that Zebulon Vermillion also wouldn't be able to pitch because of shoulder soreness.
So after Cronin held the Vols in the ninth inning -- Marshall Denton pitched in the eighth as well -- freshman Elijah Trest came in and set Tennessee down in order in the 10th.
"It was just one of those things where you go in, and you're like, 'I've got to get this done for my guys,' " Trest said. "I did my best to try and throw strikes and get outs."
CORRECTION: The story incorrectly identified the player who scored the winning run. That has been corrected.
Sports on 04/29/2019
No. 7 Arkansas vs. Grambling State
WHEN 6:30 p.m.
WHERE Dickey-Stephens Park, North Little Rock
RECORDS Arkansas 34-11; Grambling State 23-20
STARTING PITCHERS TBA
RADIO Razorback Sports Network
SHORT HOPS Jordan McFarland was the Razorbacks’ starting DH for the second consecutive game with Matt Goodheart out Sunday with a shoulder injury. McFarland went 1 for 4 and scored a run. Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said Goodheart also will miss Tuesday night’s game against Grambling … Arkansas’ 7-game SEC winning streak is its longest in conference play since the Razorbacks won 9 in a row in 2010 … Tennessee shortstop Ricky Martin had a 14-pitch at-bat against Matt Cronin in the ninth inning before flying out to center field … Jordyn Wieber, Arkansas’ new gymnastics coach and an Olympic gold medalist, did three back handsprings, then threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
THE WEEK AHEAD
TUESDAY vs Grambling State 6:30 p.m. Dickey-Stephens Park North Little Rock
FRIDAY at Kentucky 5:30 p.m.
SATURDAY at Kentucky 1 p.m.
SUNDAY at Kentucky Noon
Print Headline: Music to their ears: Opitz’s RBI double caps sweep for Hogs