SAN DIEGO — It has been said the best thing about freshmen is that in a year they will be sophomores.
Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn would have been nodding in agreement in the dugout Friday afternoon.
Freshman mistakes cost the No. 6-ranked Arkansas baseball team dearly in a 4-3 loss to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo at the Tony Gwynn Legacy tournament.
“We’re just going through some growing pains, but we’ve got to get those guys out there in the heat of the battle,” said Van Horn, who was denied his 600th victory at Arkansas. “That’s one reason we came out here, to play some good clubs and get some of these freshmen in the lineup and bring them into some tight situations on the mound.”
Things got off on the wrong foot for Arkansas (4-1) against Cal Poly (2-3), which scored a two-out run in the second inning on a wind-blown double by Nick Meyer.
Meyer hit a high fly ball to left field that Arkansas freshman left fielder Heston Kjerstad lost sight of as he ran toward the foul line. The ball dropped some 30 feet away, approximately where Kjerstad was standing when the play began.
Kjerstad, who hit a home run in Arkansas’ 1-0 victory over Arizona on Wednesday, later made a mental error on the bases when he made a late break from first base on a ball teammate Jared Gates hit off the wall in the eighth for a double. Kjerstad probably could have scored on the play, but he ended up at third base, and the Mustangs got out of the inning without allowing a run.
The other crucial freshman mistakes came an inning earlier within the span of three pitches, when Cal Poly scored twice in the seventh without the benefit of a base hit.
Freshman reliever Jackson Rutledge got two quick outs before walking Cal Poly’s Scott Ogrin. It looked like Rutledge would get out of the inning when Dylan Doherty topped a ball down the first-base line.
But Rutledge bobbled the ball for one error, then compounded his mistake when he threw it down the right-field line for another.
Ogrin came around to score and Doherty ended up at third base. Rutledge was replaced by freshman Bryce Bonnin, who promptly threw a wild pitch that allowed Doherty to score and give Cal Poly a 3-1 lead.
“When a quality team gives you some opportunities, you better take advantage of it,” Cal Poly Coach Larry Lee said. “It’s always good early in the season to play close ballgames, one-run ballgames, to be able to weather the storm, come from behind.”
It seemed Arkansas had weathered the storm when shortstop Dominic Fletcher got the Hogs even at 3-3 with a two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh.
But Cal Poly manufactured a run in the ninth, with a leadoff walk, a sacrifice bunt and an infield out before Alex McKenna delivered an RBI single against Jake Reindl (0-1).
It overshadowed a solid second outing for Arkansas junior right-hander Blaine Knight, who mixed his off-speed pitches well with a fastball that touched 94 mph. Knight allowed 1 run over 6 innings with 7 strikeouts and 1 walk.
“Knight gave us what we needed,” Van Horn said. “At this time of the year, that’s a quality start.”
The most unsettling moment for Knight came before he threw a pitch in the fourth inning.
Third-base umpire Dale Gardner threw up his arm just as Knight threw down the rosin bag and stepped to the mound to face Cal Poly’s Tate Samuelson.
The 90-second rule (a team must be ready to go within 90 seconds of the end of the previous half-inning), seldom-used since it was put on the books in 2011, was invoked and a ball was called.
Van Horn came out after the call to discuss it with home plate umpire Jason Vernzon, which consumed even more time in connection with a rule designed to save it.
After that, Knight struck out Samuelson looking.
“I haven’t seen that in at least five years,” Van Horn said of the call. “I don’t know if they’ve been told to do that by their assigner or whatever, but it was almost comical. That was something else.”
Just one more thing to shake his head at in a game that had more than its share of things.
“We had some calls that didn’t go our way, some things that didn’t go our way,” Knight said. “That’s baseball. There isn’t anything you can do about it. You just have to keep playing. …
“Freshman or senior, you’re going to screw up at some point. We need to learn from it and move on.”
The Razorbacks play San Diego State in the tournament today at 8 p.m. Central.
NO. 6 ARKANSAS
VS. SAN DIEGO STATE
WHEN 8 p.m. Central WHERE Tony Gwynn Stadium, San Diego RECORDS Arkansas 4-1; San Diego State 3-1 STARTING PITCHERS Arkansas: RHP Isaiah Campbell (1-0, 2.25 ERA); San Diego State: RHP Harrison Pyatt (0-0, 4.15) TV Cox Sports TV (Community Communications channel 664, Cox channels 80/291, Suddenlink channels 119/516) RADIO Razorback Sports Network
Sports on 02/24/2018
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