First-time participant Kent State went into the fifth inning without a hit and into the sixth without a run while falling to Arkansas 8-1 before a TD Ameritrade Park crowd of 23,980 fans.
Just like fellow CWS rookie and first-game loser Stony Brook the day before, Kent State fell behind early — 2-0 after two innings, 5-1 after six — and couldn’t get much offense going against a hot pitcher.
Arkansas’ DJ Baxendale allowed only one base runner in the first four innings, and that was on an infield error. The junior from Jacksonville, Ark., gave up just three hits in 6.1 innings in improving his record to 8-5 and lowering his ERA to 3.07.
“DJ was incredible,’’ Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn said. “I knew after the first inning he had it because he threw every fastball right where he wanted it.
“That’s a telltale sign for him after watching him pitch for three years.’’
If Arkansas (45-20) — making its third CWS appearance in eight years under former Nebraska coach Van Horn — has had an issue lately, it has been scoring runs.
But catcher Jake Wise, the No. 9 hitter, offered some surprise production. His solo home run in the second put UA up 2-0. Then he capped the scoring with a two-run single in the eighth.
Van Horn said Wise’s homer was a big lift because Arkansas had scored just one run in the first after loading the bases with one out against Kent State starter David Starn (11-4).
“We were happy we made him throw a lot of pitches, but disappointed in the number of runs we scored,’’ Van Horn said. “Then we made two quick outs in the bottom of the second.’’
But Wise followed with his first homer in 118 days.
“It was big for our psyche, our confidence,’’ Van Horn said.
Center fielder Matt Vinson, Arkansas’ No. 8 hitter, also contributed a key two-run double in the sixth that boosted the lead to 5-1. That came just moments after Kent State finally got on the board on Jimmy Rider’s solo homer in the top of the sixth.
Contributions from the bottom of the order proved more important than usual, Van Horn said.
“You think about it, my three- and four-hole hitters didn’t get a hit today, and we scored eight runs,’’ he said. “So somebody had to get it started.’’
The first hit against Baxendale (8-5) came with two outs in the fifth when Kent State’s Sawyer Polen grounded a ball up the middle.
Arkansas second baseman Bo Bigham dived to his right to stop it, but Polen beat the throw for an infield single. Only two no-hitters have been thrown in CWS history, the most recent in 1960.
“We told our guys DJ was really going to compete,’’ said Kent State coach Scott Stricklin, who coached Baxendale last summer on a USA National team. “He was on, too. So when you compete like that and you’ve got great stuff, it’s going to be really difficult to hit.’’
Stricklin said he didn’t think that his team (46-19) was nervous or overwhelmed by the circumstances.
“Our guys take a lot of pride in what we do,’’ he said. “It never tastes good to lose, especially when you didn’t play your best game.’’
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