Benintendi's Dingers Power Arkansas to Series-Opening Win
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Andrew Benintendi ripped a pair of dingers -- his fifth and sixth home runs in his last six games -- powering Arkansas to a 5-3 win over Kentucky in the series opener, on a perfect Friday night in front of 9,217 at Baum Stadium.
Kentucky (18-14 4-8 Southeastern Conference) fell behind early in the first inning as Benintendi ripped the full-count, two-out homer. After UK answered on the strength of Dorian Hairston's second homer of the year, the Razorbacks plated a pair of runs on three consecutive singles, and a two-out wild pitch, in the second inning for a multiple-run margin they wouldn't surrender. UK mounted a rally in the seventh inning, plating two but stranding the tying run on third with one out and the bases loaded after back-to-back outs. Benintendi, who ranks as the SEC leader in homers and second in the NCAA, then put the exclamation point on the win with a no-doubt blast in the bottom of the seventh, sailing his 13th homer of the year out of the stadium in rightfield.
UK collected nine hits in the game, led by Hairston's two-hit game that included his second career blast, and a two-hit game from shortstop Connor Heady. UK also got hits from Ka'ai Tom, Greg Fettes, JaVon Shelby, Kyle Barrett and Storm Wilson. Barrett moved into 29th on the UK career hit list with his 143rd career hit.
UK starter Zack Brown (2-4) suffered the loss in his ninth weekend start of the year. A native of Seymour, Ind., Brown worked six innings, allowing 10 hits and five runs, walking four and striking out five. Freshman Brad Schaenzer took over with no outs and a runner on first in the seventh, getting the left-handed hitter out before Zach Strecker took over with one out and a runner in scoring position. Strecker got the first out, before retiring the final out of the inning, working 1.2 innings, striking out two on 25 pitches.
Arkansas (19-15, 6-7 SEC) starter Trey Killian (1-2) won his first game of the year in his sixth start. Killian tossed six innings, allowing one run on six hits, walking two and striking out four. Power-armed closer Zach Jackson took over to start the seventh, working the final three innings for his fourth save of the year, allowing three hits and two runs, walking one and striking out two on 62 pitches.
The series will resume on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. ET at Baum Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on SEC Network+, and on the UK Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans in Central Kentucky can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM, in Louisville on WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com. UK will send junior right-hander Dustin (3-2, 3.33 ERA) to the mound to face Arkansas dynamic sophomore righty Dominic Taccolini (5-2, 3.11 ERA).
The Razorbacks took a lead in the bottom of the first inning as Benintendi ripped his SEC-leading 12th homer of the year over the rightfield fence, taking a two-out, 3-2 offering from Brown down the line.
UK immediately answered on the strength of Hairston's second homer of the year, a blast ripped over the leftfield wall.
Arkansas mounted a one-out rally in the top of the second inning, as Cullen Gassaway painted the line down the leftfield line, taking second on a hit-and-run single from Rick Nomura. Michael Bernal then singled with one strike up the middle, scoring Gassaway from second base. After a groundout pushed runners into scoring position with two outs, Brown uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Nomura to score from third, just under the tag.
The Razorbacks added to their lead in the fourth inning, as Nomura drew a four-pitch walk to leadoff. After a sacrifice bunt and the second out, Clark Egan dropped a two-out RBI single into shallow rightfield to give Arkansas a three-run lead.
UK rallied in the seventh inning, starting with a leadoff single from Fettes off Jackson. Heady then singled to leftfield, with Barrett replacing Heady at first base on a fielder's choice. Evan White then blooped a ball down the rightfield line, with the ruling going as a foul ball, but initiating the first instant replay in Baum Stadium history. The play was ruled foul and White loaded the bases with one out with a walk. Tom then followed with a bases-loaded single to leftfield, scoring Fettes and Shelby was then hit by a two-strike pitch to force in Barrett. Jackson then got Hairston to strikeout looking on a fastball on the outer half for the second out. Jackson then faced Bernal, working the count to 2-2, before getting Bernal to pop up to the mound.
Benintendi opened the seventh inning with his 13th homer of the year, spanked out of the facility to rightfield.