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Key takeaways, box score from Arkansas' Game 1 win over Grambling

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Arkansas has ended its last two games with home runs, albeit one far less dramatic than the other.

Just two days after completing a sweep of Illinois-Chicago with a walk-off home run by Chris Lanzilli, Braydon Webb ended Tuesday’s midweek matchup against Grambling State with an eighth-inning grand slam that made it 14-1 and invoked the run-rule.

Not only did the swing end the game, but it also ended Webb’s long drought. The super senior had been hitless in his first 23 at bats of the season, so head coach Dave Van Horn said he was really happy to see it happen — regardless of how hard the opponent was throwing.

“Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you get a hit off a guy throwing 92 or 62,” Van Horn said. “You just need to get a hit, and then your mind changes a little bit. He didn’t try to do much on that guy. He’s not throwing hard, he just stayed back and hit it where it was pitched. It was really good to see.”

Webb’s home run capped a seven-run eighth inning that doubled the Razorbacks’ run total.

As was the case throughout the game, Arkansas took advantage of free passes to put that big inning together. Seven of its eight batters reached base in the inning and four did so with walks.

The other three included Webb’s home run, an infield single by Lanzilli that could have potentially been ruled an error and a two-run single by Brady Slavens. A balk was mixed in, as well.

It was an ugly game for Grambling, as it ended up walking 10 Razorbacks, hitting one more and throwing three wild pitches. The Tigers also committed four errors.

Those things also contributed to Arkansas’ three-run second inning in which it took the lead before registering its first hit of the game. Dylan Leach was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to tie the game and Cayden Wallace hit a sacrifice fly to put the Razorbacks up 2-1 before an RBI single by Peyton Stovall.

“It’s hard to get more than a couple of hits in an inning,” Van Horn said. “If you get three or four in an inning, it’s almost rare. If you’re going to put together a really big inning, you need some help.”

Here are a few other key takeaways from the midweek blowout…

Adamiak Overcomes Shaky Start

Despite the lopsided score, Grambling — which nearly knocked off Mississippi State two weeks ago, but fell 2-1 — actually struck first. Three of the Tigers’ first four batters reached base, highlighted by Shemar Page’s RBI double that gave them a 1-0 lead.

It was a disastrous first inning for Arkansas starter Mark Adamiak. The right-hander had six two-strike pitches fouled off and threw 31 total pitches before getting out of it.

Luckily for him, though, Adamiak found his cutter and cruised the rest of his outing. He retired the final 10 batters he faced and needed just 32 pitches to get through the next three innings.

“Just couldn’t find anything to put people out with,” Adamiak said. “I came out that second inning and made sure I had a secondary pitch I could get someone out with. Once I had that confidence that I knew it was there, I just rode that through the next three innings.”

Half of the redshirt sophomore’s outs during that stretch were via strikeouts and he finished with six in his four innings of work. Only one batter saw a three-ball count over his final three innings and he threw just two total balls in the third and fourth innings combined.

“We needed him to pitch and gain some confidence and after the first inning you’re thinking, ‘Man, we won’t be able to pitch that guy on the weekend,’” Van Horn said. “And then he goes out and has a great second inning, gets better in the third, better in the fourth. … It’s like once he got lathered up a little bit, man, he was good.”

Van Horn added that Adamiak — if he pitches like he did against Grambling — could potential become a long reliever for the Razorbacks in SEC play, which starts this weekend against Kentucky.

That would be a significant development for Arkansas, which has been pretty solid on the mound during non-conference play. Tuesday’s performance could go a long way in helping Adamiak establish that role.

“It’s huge for me going forward,” Adamiak said. “I haven’t been really that happy with how I’ve performed up to this point. But I think those last three innings, that’s the person I know I am and know I can be. So I think that’s the person you’re going to see going forward.”

Bullpen Dominates

It wasn’t just Adamiak who shined on the mound Tuesday night. The Razorbacks also got really strong relief appearances from veterans Elijah Trest and Zebulon Vermillion, as well as sophomore Gabe Starks.

That trio threw the final four innings of the game and allowed just one base runner — a HBP by Starks. Including the end of Adamiak’s start, Arkansas pitchers retired 22 of the final 23 Grambling batters.

“They kind of took over the game,” Van Horn said. “A lot of times these midweek games can get crazy if your pitchers don’t throw the ball over the plate.”

Trest, a senior right-hander, was the first out of the pen and struck out the first two guys he faced before inducing a first-pitch ground ball to end the inning.

Vermillion, a super senior right-hander, followed him with a perfect sixth inning that included one strikeout. Van Horn said he was throwing 94-96 mph.

Perhaps the most encouraging outing, though, was by Starks. A lightly used sophomore, the right-hander has a lot of potential and was also throwing 94-96 every pitch, Van Horn said. He did have the two-out HBP in the seventh, but Starks struck out four of the seven batters he faced.

“That was really good to see,” Van Horn said. “He’s got really good stuff. It hasn’t gone great for him this year. Then tonight he just looked a lot more relaxed to me, wasn’t over-throwing.”

Trest and Vermillion threw just 10 and 14 pitches, respectively, while Starks threw 26. Each of them are expected to be available to pitch this weekend, if needed.

“With Trest and Vermillion, we just wanted to give them one inning and have them ready for Friday if needed and Saturday for sure,” Van Horn said. “Starks will be ready by Saturday and Sunday for sure.”

Stovall Hits His Stride

Considered one of the top incoming freshmen in college baseball after turning down potential first-round money in the MLB Draft, Stovall came to Arkansas with high expectations.

Through the first two weekends of the season, though, the Louisiana native was nowhere close to meeting them. He was hitting just .136 (3 for 22) and was actually benched in the final game of the Round Rock Classic.

Since then, he’s hit safely in eight straight games, including a 3-for-4 day at the plate Tuesday night.

“He’s swinging the bat a lot better now,” Van Horn said. “It’s zipping through the zone like it used to. I think he’s not feeling for the ball. And taking his walks. That’s what it’s all about.”

Over the last eight games, Stovall is 13 for 29 (.448) with eight RBIs. He has multiple hits in the last four games and has risen his batting average by 178 points to .314.

“It’s never really been like a physicality thing as far as the way I’ve been swinging it,” Stovall said. “It’s all just been in my head and I had kind of gotten to a point where I was letting it speed me up and trying to do too much. Like Coach Van Horn has told me a couple of times, quit trying to get three hits in one at bat.”

Other Tidbits

~Stovall played second base, his natural position, Tuesday night, allowing Robert Moore to get a day off. Moore is expected to return to the lineup Wednesday, but Van Horn said he’d play shortstop, allowing Jalen Battles to get a day off an Stovall to remain at second base.

~Dylan Leach will likely start at catcher again Wednesday, but Michael Turner will remain in the lineup. Instead of starting at designated hitter like he did Tuesday, he’ll likely play first base.

~Turner hit a two-run home run — his team-leading fourth of the season — in the fifth inning and later added a sacrifice fly to give him three RBIs. Wallace’s lone RBI came on his second-inning sacrifice fly. That means Turner now leads the team in RBIs with 20, to Wallace’s 19.

~Grambling State came into the game with a team batting average of .296, but went just 2 for 25 (.080) against Arkansas pitching.

~With the win, the Razorbacks improved to 26-0 all-time against members of the SWAC. They have outscored those teams 300-53 — an average margin of victory of 9.5 runs.

Up Next

Arkansas and Grambling will conclude their two-game midweek series Tuesday afternoon, with first pitch scheduled for 4 p.m. CT. Freshman right-hander Austin Ledbetter will make his second career start for the Razorbacks.

The game will be streamed on SEC Network-Plus.