LEXINGTON, Ky. – Junior Zack Brown pitched nine shutout innings in arguably the best performance of his career, but it was not enough Friday night as Arkansas beat the Kentucky baseball team 1-0 in the first game of a three-game set with the Razorbacks at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
The game was scoreless through nine innings before Arkansas right fielder Chad Spanberger hit a solo home run to right field off of Brown to lead off the 10th inning. That proved to be the game’s only run.
Arkansas starting pitcher Dominic Taccolini matched Brown pitch-for-pitch, holding the Wildcats (23-14, 9-7 Southeastern Conference) scoreless in a 10-inning complete game. Taccolini gave up just five hits, walked none and struck out 10 as the Razorbacks (23-15, 5-11 SEC) prevailed in extras.
Twice the Wildcats threatened to walk off with a win late in the game.
With the game still scoreless, Kentucky threatened in the bottom of the ninth inning. Sophomore Evan White reached on a one-out, infield single and advanced to second when Zach Reks grounded out to first base. Gunnar McNeill struck out, but the ball got away from the catcher with White rounding third. McNeill bolted down to first and was just narrowly beaten by the throw to end the inning.
After Arkansas took the lead in the top of the 10th inning, Kentucky did not go away quietly. Sophomore Riley Mahan led off the frame with a single, then stole second base. After junior JaVon Shelby struck out, sophomore Tyler Marshall ripped a single to right field, his career-high third hit of the night. The ball was hit just sharply enough that Mahan could not score, setting up runners on the corner with one out.
Senior Dorian Hairston struck out but not before Marshall stole second base, setting up a dramatic final at-bat with the tying run on third base and the winning run on second base. But, Taccolini, as he did all night, worked his magic and got sophomore Troy Squires to ground out, ending the rally and the game.
Brown (2-7) got the tough-luck loss with 9.2 innings pitched, giving up six hits, one earned run, while striking out six and walking just one. He was on his game all night long, especially when faced with adversity.
Early in the game, Brown pitched his way out of a jam in the top of the third inning. Arkansas’ Rick Nomura singled to begin the frame, followed by a bloop single by Tucker Pennell. The Razorbacks’ Cody Scroggins sacrificed the runners to second and third with only one out. But Brown got Clark Eagan to bounce back to the mound and Carson Shaddy to ground out to second to keep the game scoreless.
In the sixth inning, Brown pitched his way out of another jam. Eagan led off the frame with a single and advanced to second when Shaddy struck out. Luke Bonfield’s ground out to second base allowed Eagan to advance to third, but Brown got Michael Bernal to ground out to end the inning.
Meanwhile, Taccolini (4-2) was rolling right along as well. At one point, Taccolini retired 11 straight Kentucky batters, as he allowed only a Marshall single through the first six innings.
Marshall was 3-for-4 for the Cats for the second multi-hit game of his young career.
The two teams will meet in a doubleheader on Saturday. The first of two seven-inning games will begin at noon ET and can be seen on SEC Network+. The second game will start approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game and can also be seen on SEC Network+.