FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas hadn’t won a SEC baseball series since Dominic Taccolini last pitched April 14 during a 3-game home sweep over Georgia.
Not so coincidentally it seems, after losing 2 of 3 to Auburn and Ole Miss and splitting two with one rained out at Tennessee, the Razorbacks beat the Vanderbilt Commodores 2 of 3 capped by Taccolini and reliever Jake Reindl combining for a 7-1 victory propelled by Arkansas home runs by Grant Koch, Dominic Fletcher and Chad Spanberger and Carson Shaddy. They went 3 for 3 with an RBI gladdening most of the 5,238 attending on a Mother’s Day Sunday at Baum Stadium.
The Razorbacks stand 37-14 overall and at 16-10 are third in the SEC West behind LSU, 18-9, and Mississippi State, 17-10 with three SEC regular season games left for all.
Vanderbilt exits Fayetteville, 30-21 overall/13-13 in the SEC East.
Arkansas won 4-3 Friday night on Luke Bonfield’s ninth-inning RBI single on behalf of winning reliever Kevin Kopps then lost, 6-2, Saturday night running amok against the brilliant 7-inning 2-hitter 11 strikeouts vs one walk performance of Vandy junior right-hander Kyle Wright.
Sunday’s success seemed no coincidence since Taccolini, 4-0, has pitched in 14 games this season and Coach Dave Van Horn’s Razorbacks won them all.
“That was actually a joke I said last week to one of my roommates,” Taccolini said after Sunday’s success. “‘Every game I’ve pitched in, we’ve won. So I think I’m the lucky charm.’ Even the Louisiana Tech game when I gave up seven (runs) we came back and won.”
Koch, the sophomore catcher, laughed out loud.
“You can’t argue with numbers is what I say,” Koch said.
Or Taccolini’s timing. Out since April 14 with soreness in his pitching forearm, the senior in his Baum Stadium farewell unless these Hogs are selected to host a Regional, tied fellow senior Josh Alberius’ 4 1/3 innings in the SEC opening series against Mississippi State as the longest third-game SEC series start for the Razorbacks this season behind top starters Blaine Knight and Trevor Stephan.
Taccolini, giving up a second-inning solo home run to Julian Infante who had hit a 3-run home run Saturday night, handed a 2-1 lead to Reindl who retired the batter inheriting runners at first and second in the fifth.
“I was just hoping he (Taccolini) would give us four innings,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “Four would have have been great and have us be in the game. Obviously we were and he came out of the game with a lead and a couple one and I’m just proud of him hanging in there.”
Reindl had relieved Stephan on Friday and was yanked after throwing six straight balls but Sunday notched the save blanking the Commodores the final 4 1/3 on three hits.
“When I took the ball from him (Reindl) Friday I didn’t say anything except, ‘Get ready for tomorrow (Saturday),” Van Horn said Sunday. “Well tomorrow ended up being today and he did a super job. We knew we were going to need him again.”
Koch, who had hit a solo home run when Arkansas scored two in Saturday’s ninth off Vandy freshman reliever Drake Fellows, hit a 2-out 2-run first-inning home run Sunday off Vandy losing starter Chandler Day.
Other than Bonfield’s first-inning home run Friday and his ninth-inning game-winning single Friday, the Razorbacks had not led Vandy until Koch’s first-inning Sunday punch.
“I think it was the biggest swing of the day,” Van Horn said. “It gave us a little confidence probably and gave Dominic some confidence. You could tell when he hit that home run that they (the Commodores) were a little on edge over there.”
If they were on edge in first they must have been foul-pole flabbergasted in the sixth. Up 4-1 after fourth and fifth-inning sacrifice flies by Jax Biggers and Shaddy, Dominic Fletcher opened the Arkansas sixth off reliever Maddux Conger hitting a fly ball to right glancing off the foul pole for a home run after being robbed of a home run by Vandy left fielder Ro Coleman’s leaping catch in the second.
In the same inning, Arkansas first baseman Chad Spanberger struck the right field foul pole again for a 2-run home after Jake Arledge walked.
“I’ve never seen two balls hit the pole in the same inning,” Van Horn said. “Maybe never in the same game ever. Kind of amazing. When the first ball (Fletcher) was hit, I felt it was going to hit the foul pole. When Chad hit his at first I thought it was going to go foul and then I thought it was going to stay fair and go right over the top and we were going to have an issue. It would have been a really tough call.”
By then, the Commodores were probably feeling as doomed as the Razorbacks did Saturday night against Wright.
“They pretty much stuck it to us Saturday night,” Van Horn said. “And today we flipped it a little bit.”