FAYETTEVILLE — The Arkansas baseball team assured itself of an extended stay at the SEC Tournament with a 4-0 win against Texas A&M on Tuesday.
First baseman Eric Fisher hit a home run in the second inning and the Razorbacks added three more in the seventh, while pitchers Trey Killian and Zach Jackson teamed to shut out the Aggies in Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
It pushed Arkansas (36-21) into the double-elimination round of the tournament, where it will play Ole Miss (40-16) today at approximately 12:30 p.m. Meanwhile, Texas A&M (33-24) was eliminated from the 12-team tournament.
“I’m real proud of my team for coming out and playing hard,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn told the media after the win. “We haven’t been in Fayetteville for a week now. There’s a couple of teams that can say that they haven’t been (home) either. But we’ve been living in a hotel and it’s a lot more fun when you’re winning.”
Killian (4-8) played a big role in helping the Razorbacks advance to extend the road trip. The sophomore was sharp despite pitching on five days rest, allowing four hits and two walks with four strikeouts in six innings.
It was Killian’s second straight impressive performance against the Aggies, following an outing in which he allowed one run on two hits in eight innings May 9. Killian (4-8) didn’t get the decision in Arkansas’ 3-2 win that night, but did collect his second win in five days after the 9-4 victory at Missouri last Thursday.
“Trey Killian just came out and pretty much does what Trey does every time he gets on the mound,” Van Horn said. “He did a tremendous job on a short week of rest.”
Arkansas struggled to score off Texas A&M starter Daniel Mengden (4-8), who also pitched well on five days rest Tuesday. But the Razorbacks did take an early lead when Fisher led off the second inning with a home run. The junior clubbed a 2-1 pitch from Mengden over the right field wall for his ninth home run.
“I got a changeup and just stayed through it long enough,” Fisher said. “If you’re going to hit it out of this park, I guess you’ve got to hit it where I did. That thing just barely got over. Rounding first I saw it and I was pretty happy we got on the board and got Trey a run. Every time we can score a run for Trey it definitely puts a fire in him and makes him throw better.”
The 1-0 lead stood until the seventh, when Arkansas gained some much-needed breathing room. Catcher Alex Gosser — who filled in for injured starter Jake Wise (hand) — hit an RBI single to make it 2-0. Then Clark Eagan was hit by a pitch and Andrew Benintendi walked with the bases loaded to make it 4-0.
Jackson, who kept the Aggies scoreless despite surrendering a leadoff double with Arkansas clinging to a 1-0 lead to start the seventh, cruised through the final two innings. It wrapped Arkansas’ third win against the Aggies in the past 12 days.
Killian and Jackson combined to throw Arkansas’ ninth shutout, which is tied for the third-highest single-season total in school history.
“Fisher got that first run across the board for us and it’s always easier pitching with a lead even if it’s only one run,” Killian said. “Then we were able to scrap a few more across late in the game and kind of secure the win. … I felt pretty good out there. I felt like I threw a lot of strikes. I’m just glad we came out with a win.”
The opening-round win should eliminate any questions regarding Arkansas’ NCAA Regional hopes. The Razorbacks won for the seventh time in eight games, continuing to strengthen a resume that includes series wins against South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Alabama. Arkansas also is 3-1 against the Aggies this season.
The Razorbacks are 1-2 against today’s opponent, losing the three-game series at Ole Miss three weeks ago. But Arkansas won the series finale 11-1 on May 4, kicking off its current streak of seven wins in the past eight games.
Arkansas will send right-hander Chris Oliver (7-4) to the mound today, while the Rebels start right-hander Chris Ellis (9-0). Ellis allowed two runs on six hits in six innings during a 3-2 win against Arkansas on May 2. Oliver allowed one run on five hits in seven innings against the Rebels in the May 4 win.
The winner of Wednesday’s game will advance to play either Vanderbilt or LSU on Thursday afternoon for a spot in the SEC Tournament semifinals. The loser will play the Vanderbilt/LSU loser in an elimination game Thursday morning.
“We’re not trying to go home and rest up for a regional tournament even though we might have that locked down on paper right now,” Killian said. “Our motive is to come out here and win ballgames, win as many as we can and make it as far in this tournament as we can.”
Tuesday, May 20
Game 1 Vanderbilt 3, Tennessee 2 (Tennessee eliminated)
Game 2 Arkansas 4, Texas A&M 0 (Texas A&M eliminated)
Game 3 #9 Kentucky 7, #8 Alabama 1 (Alabama eliminated)
Game 4 #5 Mississippi State 5, #12 Georgia 4 (10 innings) (Georgia eliminated)
Wednesday, May 21
Game 5 9:30 a.m. #3 LSU vs. #6 Vanderbilt [SPSO]
Game 6 TBD #2 Ole Miss vs. #7 Arkansas [SPSO]
Game 7 4:30 p.m. #1 Florida vs. #9 Kentucky [CSS]
Game 8 TBD #4 South Carolina vs. #5 Mississippi State [CSS]
Thursday, May 22
Game 9 9:30 a.m. Loser Game 5 vs. Loser Game 6 [SPSO]
Game 10 TBD Loser Game 7 vs. Loser Game 8 [SPSO]
Game 11 4:30 p.m. Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6 [CSS]
Game 12 TBD Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8 [CSS]