Noland’s Gem Turns Into Sweep For Hogs
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Freshman right-hander Connor Noland handcuffed second-ranked Mississippi State for 7.2 scoreless innings on Saturday as his performance helped 10th-ranked Arkansas to a 10-2 win and a three-game sweep at Baum-Walker Stadium.
Arkansas (30-10, 12-6 SEC) has swept the Bulldogs (32-9, 10-8 SEC) for the second time in three seasons and, with the win, moves ahead of Texas A&M for the overall SEC Western Division lead by a half game. The Hogs are now 21-4 at Baum-Walker Stadium this year and have won 21 or more games at home every year since 2006.
Noland, who had not pitched past the fifth inning in 10 previous starts this year, held the Bulldogs to only four hits in his career-long outing and came away with no walks and five strikeouts on 89 pitches. It was Noland’s second win of the week as he pitched two scoreless frames on Tuesday against Arkansas-Pine Bluff and is now 2-2 on the year.
After a slight struggle in the first inning where he left two aboard, but didn’t let any runs cross, Noland retired 10 of the next 11 batters he faced, allowing just a single by Gunner Halter in the third inning. He went on to pitch into the eighth inning before Jacob Kostyshock took over with two outs. Noland finished the game with 11 groundball outs and no extra-base hits allowed.
Offensively, seven Razorbacks had at least one hit in Saturday’s game. Casey Martin, Jordan McFarland and Jacob Nesbit each came away with two hits. Nesbit took home the top hitting line with a 2-for-4 game and four RBIs, three coming off a home run in the sixth, making it 7-0. It was Nesbit’s second home run of the year as two of his three hits in the series came in today’s game.
Nesbit Drives In First Run, Then Blasts Hogs To Big Inning
With just one hit in the series prior to Saturday’s series finale, third baseman Jacob Nesbit came through not only once, but twice in helping the Hogs to the three-game sweep of Mississippi State. Nesbit drove in the game’s first run in the fifth inning on a single up the middle to score Jordan McFarland. Then, in the sixth, Arkansas had already sent six men to the plate before Nesbit came up again and blasted a 0-1 pitch into the Hog Pen for three runs and pushing Arkansas’ lead to 7-0. Nesbit has seven hits in his last 10 games and the four RBIs was a career high.
McFarland Steps Up With Kjerstad Out
With Heston Kjerstad having to serve a one-game suspension due to his ejection on Friday, junior Jordan McFarland got the start at DH and Matt Goodheart moved to right field. McFarland responded well with the spot start, going 2-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI. His single in the fifth eventually led to him being driven in by Nesbit for Arkansas’ first run. Today was McFarland’s first start in conference play this season and first on the weekend since March 13. It was also his first multi-hit game since Feb. 16 against Eastern Illinois.
Hog Pitching Shuts Down SEC’s Top Offense
Mississippi State came into the weekend series with Arkansas as SEC’s top hitting team with a .327 average, which was also the second-highest average in the country. Arkansas pitching, however, kept the Bulldogs in check all weekend, limiting them to just 10 runs on 17 hits and a .173 team batting average. MSU’s leading hitter Jake Mangum was held to only two hits in the series. All three of Arkansas’ starting pitchers held the Bulldogs to two runs or less and struck out five or more.
“Just a great job by our team, obviously, all three days coming out and really playing solid baseball and putting together some really good innings, offensively. Today, the story was Connor Noland. I mean, he was just lights outs. He had his two-seamer going, sinking. He wasn’t overpowering, 90 miles an hour. Most of his pitches were right at 90 and then he had a really good slider. He mixed in some changeups to some lefties. But he kind of went with the harder breaking pitch today and just did a super job.” – Head coach Dave Van Horn on Connor Noland’s outing
“Great job all weekend. I’m just proud of these guys. It’s been a good week. We had that tough game last Saturday at Vandy after a tough 3-2 loss on Friday and then we fought back and won Sunday. You can see how it kind of turns things. We did Tuesday and then won three more games. We’ve won five in a row. Just a really good job by our team mentally to stay strong last weekend and it led to this great week we had.” – Head coach Dave Van Horn on his team’s sweep of Mississippi State
“I’ve said all along that he’s mature for being a freshman in college. His mental makeup is advanced over some kids his age — maybe a lot — that we coach. It’s one reason why liked him right when he got in here and started working with us. We felt like he’d have a chance to pitch on the weekend, because of the mental part of it. Physically, he’s already there. Now he just needs experience. But you did see the mature part of him come out this whole week leading up today, and he got rewarded for it.” – Head coach Dave Van Horn on Connor Noland’s maturity
“I was just looking for a pitch I could handle. He threw me a fastball on the first pitch of the at bat that kind of sawed off my hands little bit. He threw me a fastball again on the next pitch and I didn’t miss it that time.” – Jacob Nesbit on his home run in the sixth inning
Coach (Dave) Van Horn says the SEC is kind of like a league like no other. Rankings don’t matter so much, like we saw last year. We got swept by them in Starkville and we were ranked top five and they weren’t ranked at all. So, anybody can beat anybody on any given day. Thats just kind of baseball in general. Anytime you can sweep anybody in the SEC that’s something you want to do.” – Jordan McFarland on sweeping Mississippi State and now leading the division
“I’ve been waiting for that moment for a long time. Going seven and two-thirds innings, I mean that’s what you dream about, going out there and performing well at your peak performance. That was a big thing and just happy it happened.” – Connor Noland on having a career day on the mound
Arkansas continues the homestand next Tuesday and Wednesday as it welcomes Northwestern State to Baum-Walker Stadium for a two-game series. First pitch on Tuesday is set for 6:30 p.m., followed by game two on Wednesday at 3 p.m. Both games will be televised online on SEC Network+.