No. 1 Arkansas Calls the (Kevin) Kopps and Defeats No. 3 Vanderbilt 6-4 in Third Round of SEC Tournament

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Photo Courtesy: Southeastern Conference

Arkansas got a big game from Kevin Kopps and some timely hitting to take a 6-4 win over Vanderbilt Thursday night in the third round of the SEC Tournament.

Kopps worked 3.0 innings, struck out five, didn’t allow a hit or walk, faced nine hitters, ,threw 30 pitches and 22 were strikes. Kopps earned his ninth save of the season. Ryan Costeiu got the win to move to 7-2 on the season.

Vanderbilt got to Arkansas starter Patrick Wicklander for four hits, including a two-out, two-run RBI double by catcher CJ Rodriguez in the bottom of the first for a 2-0 lead. Arkansas would have been out of the inning without any damage but a fly ball to shallow center field got lost in the lights and fell for a double by Jack Bulger.

The Razorbacks struck back though in the bottom of the second. Christian Franklin drew a walk from Kumar Rocker. Robert Moore then singled. Following a strikeout, freshman Ethan Bates, starting in place of the injured Brady Slavens, singled to plate Franklin. With two outs, Zack Gregory walked to load the bases. Then Matt Goodheart was hit by a Rocker pitch allowing Moore to score and tied the game at 2-2.

Vandy reclaimed the lead in the top of the fourth when Wicklander hit a spell having trouble finding the strike zone. He retired the first two Vandy hitters in the inning, then walked one, allowed a single and walked another. That brought Dave Van Horn out to put in Costeiu. He walked a run in that was credited to Wicklander.

Arkansas was able to get three runs and take a 5-3 lead in the bottom of the fourth and thus knocking Rocker out of the game. Bates walked and Jalen Battles singled with one out. Matt Goodheart broke out of a slump in a big way with a double to get both Bates and Battles across the plate. Cullen Smith singled to plate Goodheart for the two-run lead.

Vanderbilt’s Isaiah Thomas hit a solo home run off Costeiu to start the top of the fifth pulling his team to within 5-4.

Moore walked to start the bottom of the fifth. He went to second on a wild pitch and then third on a fly out by Casey Opitz. Bates then hit a sacrifice fly that got Moore into score for a 6-4 lead.

Wicklander worked 3.2 innings. allowed five hits, three runs (all earned), one strikeout, faced 17 hitters, threw 65 pitches and 35 were strikes. Costeiu worked 1.1 innings and gave up a run. Caden Monke came into pitch the sixth. He worked one inning and then after walking the leadoff hitter to start the top of the seventh gave way to Kopps.

Rocker only went 3.1 innings. He allowed four hits, five runs (all earned), four walks, hit one batter, struck out six, faced 19 hitters, threw 86 pitches and 45 were strikes. Rocker (11-3) took the loss.

Arkansas (44-10) will now play Saturday at 3 p.m.

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