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Hogs power up, hit 4 home runs to down SEMO

by Tom Murphy | February 27, 2021 at 3:29 a.m.
Arkansas designated hitter Charlie Welch reacts after hitting a home run during a game against Southeast Missouri State on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The No. 8 Arkansas Razorbacks pounded four home runs and rallied from behind for the fourth time in five games to knock off Southeast Missouri State 7-3 on a chilly Friday to stay unbeaten.

University of Arkansas right-hander Connor Noland (1-0) worked 4 2/3 strong innings out of the bullpen in his first appearance of the season to pick up the win before a crowd of 4,218 at Baum-Walker Stadium.

Robert Moore, Cayden Wallace and Charlie Welch all stroked two-run home runs, and Christian Franklin hit a solo shot in the eighth inning for his second in two days as the Razorbacks (5-0) scored all of their runs via the long ball.

SEMO (2-3) could not hold an early lead for left-hander Noah Niznick nor keep the Razorbacks from eclipsing their previous home run total of three through four games.

Noland, almost exclusively a starter his first two seasons, came into a jam created by reliever Evan Taylor with a pair of walks in the fourth inning and immediately extricated himself with a sharp line drive double play off the bat of Peyton Leeper to first baseman Brady Slavens.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-PPYXKRx5I]

"It was a tough spot," Noland said. "I was throwing a two-seam on the inside to him just trying to get a jam shot to get a double-play ball. He got the barrel out there, and luckily, we've got Brady Slavens out there with the glue glove ready to do anything."

Noland allowed only two singles, an unearned run and did not walk a batter while striking out five to get through the eighth inning.

"The stuff that Connor had today was probably the best I've seen him have since he's been here, when you really look at everything combined: velocity, location of his fastball, then breaking ball ... just had really good depth," Coach Dave Van Horn said. "He just did a tremendous job once he got comfortable out there. That was the biggest point of the game when he established himself out there, and we didn't have to go back to the bullpen until the end."

Noland had not pitched during the Razorbacks' 3-0 start at the College Baseball Showdown in Arlington, Texas, last weekend.

"I knew my opportunity was going to come," Noland said. "We've got a really deep staff. We've got a lot of great pitchers on this team. Everybody's going to get their turn, and when you do get the opportunity just take advantage."

Noland said his two-seam fastball and a curveball were his dominant pitches, and he attacked the inner half of the plate to both right-handed and left-handed batters.

Van Horn made tweaks to his lineup -- moving Wallace up to cleanup where Braydon Webb had been struggling, and giving Welch and catcher Dylan Leach their first action -- and all of them produced.

Wallace smacked the go-ahead two-run home run in the sixth inning, and Welch followed two batters later with his two-run shot over the bleachers beyond the left-field fence to put Arkansas ahead 6-2.

"Charlie Welch, he's got a knack for hitting the ball hard to the pull side," Van Horn said. "He took a couple of decent swings his first couple of at-bats, but he didn't get cheated that last one. That ball was rocketed out of here, so it was good to see him get his first hit as a Razorback, and it was a big one for us."

As they did in Thursday's series opener, the Redhawks jumped on top first, scratching out a pair of runs in the third inning against Arkansas starter Zebulon Vermillion, who issued four walks in his three innings.

The leadoff man Leeper opened the third with a walk, and Tyler Wilber singled him to second base. Vermillion induced a soft liner to shortstop out of Austin Blazevic for the first out, then Andrew Keck's single to center scored Leeper and moved Wilber to third. Lincoln Andrews grounded back to Vermillion, who did not have a play on Wilber at the plate as SEMO made it 2-0.

Unlike Thursday's game, when SEMO led from the first inning until the ninth, the Hogs struck back quickly.

The nine-hole hitter Leach, spot-starting for Casey Opitz, singled for the Razorbacks' first hit against Noah Niznik (0-1), then Moore launched a no-doubt home run over the left-field fence to tie the game at 2-2.

[GALLERY: Click here for more photos » arkansasonline.com/227semoua/]

Arkansas knocked Niznik out in a sixth inning that got started on Moore's perfectly placed push bunt toward second base. Niznik got a come-backer from Franklin and struck out Cullen Smith, but Wallace touched him for a high-arcing shot that landed in the Arkansas bullpen beyond the left-field fence.

Slavens kept up the thunder with an opposite-field triple to left-center that short-hopped the wall and bounced away from center fielder Danny Wright. Welch chased Niznik with his deep home run.

Franklin went the opposite way in the eighth inning, homering over the right-field wall against right-hander Hunter Ralls to make it 7-3.

Senior Kevin Kopps worked the ninth inning, striking out two and giving up one hit to finish the game, which gave Arkansas nine consecutive wins dating back to last year, its longest winning streak since 2012.

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ARKANSAS BASEBALL

vs. Southeast Missouri State

WHEN 11 a.m., today

WHERE Baum-Walker Stadium, Fayetteville

RECORDS SEMO 2-3; Arkansas 5-0

STARTING PITCHERS SEMO RHP Ryan Vogt (0-0, 6.00); Arkansas RHP Peyton Pallette (0-0, 0.00)

INTERNET SEC Network-Plus

SHORT HOPS

Today’s first pitch was changed to 11 a.m. to try to beat expected afternoon rain. … Arkansas 2B Robert Moore turned in the defensive gem of the game, ranging to his right and diving to field a shot up the middle by Lincoln Andrews, then jumping up and throwing him out from the outfield grass. The play earned a hug from shortstop Jalen Battles. … Arkansas pitchers have held opponents to four extra-base hits, including one in the last four games. … Arkansas’ score by innings has been heavily weighted to the back half of games. The Razorbacks have failed to score in the first two innings through five games. With four runs in the sixth inning Friday, Arkansas has scored 11 runs in that frame, just edging out the 10 runs in the ninth inning for the team lead.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE

TODAY, Southeast Mo. 11 a.m.

SUNDAY, Southeast Mo. 1 p.m.

MONDAY Off

TUESDAY Off

WEDNESDAY Off

THURSDAY Off

FRIDAY Murray State, 3 p.m.

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