Diamond Hogs down Vols in series opener

FAYETTEVILLE — One of the most highly anticipated games on the 2023 college baseball slate left spectators with plenty to be satisfied with on a nearly perfect Friday night at Baum-Walker Stadium.

A rocky first inning gave way to eight scoreless between the left-handed duo of Hunter Hollan and Hagen Smith, and No. 5 Arkansas punished No. 16 Tennessee for error after error en route to a 5-2 victory to open the three-game set.

Volunteer left fielder Jared Dickey snapped Hollan’s streak of five consecutive clean first innings when he launched his fourth pitch off the top of the right field fence and into the home bullpen for a 1-0 lead.

Hollan was nearly out of the first, but home plate umpire Derek Mollica called him for a balk with two strikes, two outs and runners on the corners, allowing a second run to cross. It went down as unearned because Jace Bohrofen — playing left field in place of the injured Jared Wegner, misplayed a single — allowing the runner at first base to get to third.

Twenty-two pitches were necessary for Hollan to get through the first inning, and he wound up with 63 by the end of the third.

The next time he took the mound, though, he had a lead to work with, which changed everything.

Tennessee starter Andrew Lindsey struck out four of the first seven batters he faced, limiting the Razorbacks to a bunt single in the first two innings, but mistakes of all kinds proved costly in the third.

Arkansas shortstop John Bolton hit a weak grounder up the middle that had double play written all over it, but his counterpart could not come up with the play at second, allowing catcher Parker Rowland to take another 90 feet as the ball trickled toward the outfield.

Bolton kept the pressure on with a stolen base attempt, and the throw sailed into center field, giving Rowland plenty of time to score the first run for the home team. Lindsey’s only mistake of the night soon followed, and it took the form of a center-cut, 95-mph fastball, which center fielder Tavian Josenberger belted to right-center field for a go-ahead, two-run homer.

Hollan settled in to work his first perfect frame of the night in the fourth, and he received another run of support in the same inning. First baseman Brady Slavens reached on the Volunteers’ third error and eventually scored on Rowland’s double play with the bases loaded and nobody out.

Bohrofen stretched the lead to 5-2 in the fifth, pouncing on a first-pitch fastball for his ninth homer of the season and third in three games.

The Vols brought the tying run into the on-deck circle with two away in the sixth, prompting a mound visit from pitching coach Matt Hobbs. Whatever he told his left-hander was clearly effective, as he induced a flyout to right to cap off his third quality start in five conference outings.

Smith was the first and only man out of the bullpen, fanning a pair of Volunteers on 20 pitches in the seventh. The sophomore “wild card” outdid himself in the eighth, striking out the side with 13 and sauntering back to the dugout just three outs shy of a series-opening victory.

Wegner, who did not start because of the hairline fracture in his left thumb, entered as a defensive replacement for Kendall Diggs in the ninth, moving Bohrofen to right. The substitution proved inconsequential, however, as Smith finished off Tennessee with two more punchouts to earn his second save of the season.

The Razorbacks and Volunteers are primed for another showdown under the lights at Baum-Walker Stadium at 6 p.m. Saturday. Neither team has announced a starting pitcher, and the contest will stream live in the ESPN app.

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