FAYETTEVILLE — For his final regular season game at Baum Stadium, Arkansas senior designated hitter Luke Bonfield brought his bat with a 3-run home run and four RBI by the third inning helping the Razorbacks bring the broom in Sunday’s 6-3 victory completing a 3-game sweep of the Texas A&M Aggies.
A total of 24,666, including 6,758 on Sunday, attended the sweep commencing with Arkansas’ 9-3 triumph Friday night and 3-1 success Saturday afternoon.
Going into the final series at Georgia, Arkansas, 35-15 overall including 29-3 at Baum, stands at No. 1 in the SEC West at 17-10, one game up on runner-up Ole Miss.
“Just a great weekend for our team bouncing back after not playing really well last weekend at Baton Rouge,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said of previously losing 2 of 3 at LSU.
Arkansas netted three winning starts from junior pitchers Blaine Knight of Bryant on Friday night, Kacey Murphy of Rogers on Saturday and recently struggling Isaiah Campbell on Sunday.
After Knight struck out 11 against no walks and five hits through seven complete, and Rogers threw 7 1/3 shutout innings Friday with four hits and two walks against five strikeouts, Campbell exited up 4-0 after five complete striking out seven against no walks and five hits.
“I thought Isaiah Campbell threw the ball real well,” Van Horn said “He got hit around a title bit in the fifth and we thought we are not going to leave him in too long. He was at 70 pitches and about to go the third time through the lineup and we had plenty of guys (relievers) ready to go.”
He used plenty. Cody Scroggins, Evan Lee and Jake Reindl all pitched during A&M’s run-scoring sixth which Reindl ended inducing a doubleplay.
Lefty Matt Cronin, pitching for the first time since recovering from mononucleosis, bailed Reindl out of a seventh inning jam and pitched a 1-2-3 eighth before running out of gas with two 1-out walks in the ninth.
Barrett Loseke, who pitched the final 1-2-3 for Saturday’s save, relieved Reindl for an infield out advancing the runners to score on Cole Bedford’s single up the middle before second baseman Carson Shaddy, the Razorbacks’ other 4-year letterman senior with Bonfield in their final Baum series, knocked down Michael Helman’s grounder and threw to first sealing the game.
Shaddy hit a 3-run home run Friday night and knocked in all three Arkansas runs Saturday afternoon.
Bonfield landed Sunday’s punch. He got the RBI for Arkansas’ first-inning run on a grounder scoring a runner from third while the Aggies threw away a chance for a doubleplay in their frame fraught with two of their four miscues.
A&M starter Stephen Kolek had walked Casey Martin on Sunday and hit Heston Kjerstad opening the third when he fell behind Bonfield. From down 3-1 in the count, Kolek fell down to 4-0 on the scoreboard. Bonfield’s blast boomed over the bullpen in left and the seats behind it and was last seen bouncing on the concrete beyond.
“Really good at-bat,” Van Horn said. “He worked the count, laid off some borderline pitches and then got the 3-1 fastball and did just what we hoped he'd do with it. It went from a one-run lead to a four-run lead real quick.”
Bonfield believed up in the count he could put the Aggies down for the count.
“They were trying to bust me in all day and that’s what they kind of did my first at bat,” Bonfield of Skillman, N.J. said. “I was kind of saying, ‘All right, if they try to come in, which I thought they were going to try to do, just get your hands out and put a good swing on it.’ I got that pitch and I didn’t miss it.”
His New Jersey based family got to see him cream the pitch firsthand. He wasn’t going to miss putting the broom to the Aggies.
“It was awesome,” Bonfield said of the weekend. “It was awesome to have my family in the stands, awesome to play with my teammates. These guys are like my brothers, so I’m hoping that we have a lot more time left together. That’s what I’m focused on right now.”
Given A&M’s ninth-inning rally, the Razorbacks netted two big insurance runs in the eighth off A&M submarine-style reliever Nolan Hoffman via freshman backup catcher Casey Opitz’s sacrifice fly and an RBI double by first baseman Hunter Wilson.A&M right fielder Chandler Morris gloved it but couldn’t hold just like he gloved but couldn’t hold Shaddy’s 2-run double in Saturday’s seventh inning.
Opitz finished for All-SEC catcher Grant Koch whose ankle, injured during the seventh inning, was scheduled to be X-rayed.
The Hogs already had backup shortstop Jack Kenley who turned in Sunday’s defensive gem with a diving stop and flip to second baseman Shaddy turning Michael Helman’s would-have-been RBI single up the middle into a third-inning ending doubleplay.