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Hogs sweep SEC opener once again | Arkansas Democrat Gazette

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Hogs sweep SEC opener once again | Arkansas Democrat Gazette


FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas baseball team is used to opening SEC play with a series sweep.

It happened again on Sunday when the No. 1 Razorbacks beat Missouri 9-1 before an announced crowd of 9,867 to complete a three-game sweep of the Tigers.

Arkansas (17-2, 3-0) opened SEC play for a sweep for the sixth time in seven years and improved to 20-1 in those games.

The Razorbacks had to settle for taking two of three games from Alabama in 2021.

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All of the last seven SEC opening series have been played at Baum-Walker Stadium.

“You’ve got to take care of your park,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “You’ve got to win at home, and the real good teams win on the road.”

The sweeps include Mississippi State in 2017, Kentucky 2018, Missouri in 2019, Kentucky in 2022, Auburn in 2023 and Missouri this season.

There were no SEC games played in 2020 because of covid-19.

“I didn’t know we swept six times,” Van Horn said. “I could see winning the series, but sweeps are hard, and good for our guys.”

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The Razorbacks extended their winning streak to 13 games in out-scoring the Tigers (9-11, 0-3) by a combined 23-1.

“It’s big,” said Arkansas junior catcher Hudson White, a transfer from Texas Tech. “Conference is always tough.

“Coach says it all the time, it’s one game of 30. You’ve got to take it day by day, game by game, one pitch at a time.

“Anytime that you can win a SEC game, it’s great.”

Razorbacks junior left-hander Mason Molina (3-0) went 5 1/3 innings with 10 strikeouts and didn’t allow a run. He held the Tigers to one hit and two walks.

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“He’s hard to hit,” Van Horn said. “He’s just kind of effectively wild a little bit. Kind of keeps them off balance.”

Molina threw 98 pitches with 54 strikes.

“Obviously if he was a little bit more efficient with pitches he probably could have gone seven innings,” Van Horn said. “But they fouled off a lot of pitches on him, because that fastball is hard to get on top of.”

After Missouri put runners on first and second base against Molina in the sixth inning, Koty Frank came in to pitch and struck out Trevor Austin and Jackson Lovich to keep Arkansas ahead 5-0.

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The Razorbacks took a 2-0 lead in the first inning against Missouri starter Carter Rustad on a single by Peyton Stovall, double by Kendall Diggs and a sacrifice-fly by Wehiwa Aloy after Diggs went to third base on a wild pitch.

“It keeps the momentum on your side and the faster that I can get them back in the dugout the more the momentum stays on our side and builds,” Molina said of pitching with an early lead. “When we have a big inning like that, my only job is to go out there and get us back in as fast as possible.”

Arkansas scored in five innings, including Ben McLaughlin’s home run in the third, Stovall’s RBI double in the fifth and Aloy’s two-run single in the seventh. White added an RBI double in the seventh.

“I like big innings, but I also like putting some pressure on every inning,” Van Horn said. “Two here, one there, three there. That’s how you kind of put it away.

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“You just keep the momentum away from them and get it to the point where they’re thinking, ‘Man, this is too big a hill to climb.’ It’s kind of what we did today.”

Stovall, in his seventh game back after being out with a broken foot and his fourth game played at second base this season, went 2 for 5. Aloy was 2 for 3 with a walk and had 3 RBI.

Along with Frank and Fisher, the Razorbacks used Gage Wood and Gabe Gaeckle out of the bullpen.

Gaeckle, a freshman right-hander who has emerged as the Razorbacks’ closer with four saves, pitched the ninth on a blowout game because he hadn’t pitched previously on the weekend with the Razorbacks winning 8-0 on Friday night and 6-0 on Saturday.

“They played good baseball and we didn’t,” Missouri first-year Coach Kerrick Jackson said. “It really comes down to it being that simple.

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“The skill level in this league is high. We play good baseball in this league — we throw strikes, we play good defense, we have quality at-bats — and we didn’t do that all weekend.

“Those are things that are frustrating about this is, those are things we can control. We’ve got a young group.

“The last time an SEC team had this many first-year players on the field, I’d love to know when it was. We’ve just got to keep growing these kids up and get them to understand success has to be things that we define it to be, not the external numbers.”

In contrast Van Horn has a veteran team used to winning.

“Just a really good weekend for us,”Van Horn said. “We pitched extremely well obviously. They scored one run all weekend. We pitched out of a couple of jams.

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“We also fielded the ball. We didn’t make an error all weekend.

“We just kind of pitched and played defense and had some timely hits. A good way to start off conference play.”



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Arkansas

Arkansas Pie Festival returns April 27 – Talk Business & Politics

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Arkansas Pie Festival returns April 27 – Talk Business & Politics


The Arkansas Pie Festival is set to return to Cherokee Village, Ark., on Saturday (April 27) as a partner of the World Food Championship, the biggest Food Sport event in the world.

As an official qualifying event for WFC, the Arkansas Pie Festival will award one Golden Ticket to its champion making them eligible to compete in the Dessert category at the international cooking tournament this fall.

It will host a competition between commercial pie makers, home chefs, and students. Judges and attendees will be able to sample pies of all varieties before crowning a people’s choice and champion baker. Pies will also be displayed and auctioned to support the Spring River Innovation Hub.

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“The Arkansas Pie Festival is back and bigger than ever”, said festival co-founder and Cherokee Village community developer Jonathan Rhodes. “We’ve seen the excitement building around the local community and throughout the state thanks to our partners like The World Food Championship. The Arkansas Pie Festival gives us an opportunity to promote Arkansas, bring people together in Cherokee Village and support our small businesses. And…who doesn’t love pie?”

In addition to pie tasting, festival goers will enjoy live music entertainment on the FNBC Stage, food trucks, pie eating contests, shopping at the Arkansas Pie Pop-up Shop and the opportunity to meet Miss Arkansas 2023 Cori Keller. The festival also includes a Pie Day 5K race sponsored by White River Health and the Pie Fest Pup Parade.

Kat Robinson, Arkansas travel writing and leading authority on pie, serves as Festival co-chair. Kat has written a book oabout Arkansas Pie, “A Delicious Slice of the Natural State,” and recently released a second edition, “Another Slice of Arkansas Pie.”

Robinson will be available to sign her guides and other Arkansas food-related books. Robinson will lead judging with a host of Arkansas celebrities including Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice John Dan Kemp, Director of Arkansas Tourism Dalaney Thomas, and Arkansas Democrat Gazette Restaurant Writer Eric Harrison.

Festival proceeds will support STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) programming and education through the community’s Spring River Innovation Hub.

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Another one | Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

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Another one | Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette


FAYETTEVILLE — The No. 14 University of Arkansas softball team scored seven runs in the first inning and Morgan Leinstock pitched a shutout Sunday to defeat No. 15 Alabama 8-0 in five innings Sunday in the rubber match of the series at Bogle Park.

The Razorbacks (32-12, 11-7 SEC) won their fourth consecutive series, all of which have come against ranked opponents and followed the same pattern — win, loss, win.

Arkansas previously won series over Georgia, Missouri and South Carolina.

“It’s a matchup of toughness,” Arkansas Coach Courtney Deifel said of rubber matches. “It’s a matchup of response. It’s a matchup, for us, a situation we’ve been in winning the series last four times.

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“It’s coming off the loss on Saturday and having to respond and grab the momentum back. … It just continues to show their toughness and their grit and their character. It’s a sport of series and when you win the series and you find a way to win two of the three, it’s huge. And so I’m just really proud of them.”

The Razorbacks recorded their first run-rule victory since winning 8-0 in five innings at Texas A&M-Commerce on March 18.

Alabama (31-12, 8-10) lost its second series in a row and was defeated by the Razorbacks in a rubber match for the second consecutive season. Arkansas took series over Alabama in back-to-back years for the first time.

The Razorbacks scored two runs in the series entering Sunday’s game, but were able to chase Alabama ace Kayla Beaver in the first inning with an onslaught of runs.

Arkansas sent 12 batters to the plate in the inning. The seven runs surrendered by Beaver, a graduate transfer from Central Arkansas, tied her career high and her most this season.

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“She doesn’t have many innings like that,” Deifel said. “She doesn’t have many outings like that. … And it looked a lot of ways. It wasn’t just like we were teeing off: it was a dribbler that we beat out, it was the home run, it was the flare hit, it was the walks and it was not stretching our zones and just doing whatever it took to pass the bat.

“She is a very, very talented pitcher and competitor and we knew that it was going to take a relentless approach to get to her.”

First baseman Bri Ellis began the scoring with a two-run home run deep over the wall in left-center field on the game’s third at-bat. Ellis’ 14th homer, which leads the team and ranks third in the SEC, put Arkansas ahead 2-0.

“I myself knew I had to make an adjustment because I just haven’t really been feeling at my best these past few games,” Ellis said. “I did the best I could in pregame to make any kind of adjustment and just kind of slow it down, do a little less.

“I knew what pitches I was going to get, and I knew that the best pitch I was going to see out of her hand was a screwball or whatever it is she’s throwing on the inside half. I knew that I wasn’t going to have success with the outer-half drop ball so I was letting those go, and after two of those came, I kind of had a feeling I was going to get something inside for a strike. So I was sitting on that pitch and I got it.”

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After a base hit by Kennedy Miller and a pair of walks loaded the bases, Rylin Hedgecock shot a single to right-center field on the first pitch she saw to score two runs. Arkansas extended its lead to 5-0 on the next at-bat when a wild pitch by Beaver scored Raigan Kramer from third base.

Two walks issued by Beaver loaded the bases again for the Razorbacks and forced a pitching change.

Jaala Torrence relieved Beaver. Nia Carter blooped a two-run single off Torrence to shallow left-center field, which was lost in the sun by Alabama shortstop Kenleigh Cahalan and gave the Razorbacks a 7-0 lead.

The big first inning came less than 16 hours after Alabama scored five runs during the fifth inning of Game 2 to defeat Arkansas and even the series. It was an emotional game for the Razorbacks, marred by an apparent missed call that led to Alabama’s big fifth.

“It was an emotional game last night,” Deifel said. “It was a frustrating game and it was a late game. … I know I didn’t sleep much last night with a quick turnaround and just the feel of the game last night. And so for them to show up ready to go, ready to make a statement and ready to respond, it was huge.”

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Leinstock, who pitched nine scoreless innings during the Razorbacks’ 1-0 series opening victory Friday, tossed another shutout. The right-handed graduate transfer from Southern Miss allowed 3 hits, 1 walk and struck out 5 to record her 12th victory.

“She’s a fighter in every sense of the word,” Deifel said of Leinstock. “For her to just set the tone in the first inning, make a statement throughout the game, and our defense have her back … it’s just really special.”

Torrence pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings for Alabama before she was replaced by Alea Johnson to begin the fourth.

A single by Carter and double off the wall in center field by Cylie Halvorson gave the Razorbacks runners in scoring position with one out. Hannah Gammill extended Arkansas’ lead to 8-0 a sacrifice fly heading into the fifth.

Leinstock and the Razorbacks’ defense stranded an Alabama runner at second base in the fifth inning to protect the eight-run lead and enforce a run rule.

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“It’s a game of mindset,” Deifel said. “It’s a game of, ‘How are we going to reset our mindset? How are we going to respond? How are we going to show up when things aren’t going how we want them to?’

“In softball, you have a lot of practice in that. Now this one had a lot more emotion to it, but for them to just start the day new and want to control what we can control — and I keep saying it — I’m just really proud of their response from last night to today.”

The Razorbacks recorded eight hits and drew five walks against Alabama’s pitchers. Carter led Arkansas with a 3-for-3 performance at the plate and tied Ellis and Hedgecock with a team-high two RBI.

Arkansas is scheduled to begin a three-game series at No. 7 LSU at 6 p.m. Central on Friday on SEC Network-Plus.



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Former Arkansas men’s basketball star Bobby Portis is a finalist for NBA Sixth Man of the Year | Whole Hog Sports

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Former Arkansas men’s basketball star Bobby Portis is a finalist for NBA Sixth Man of the Year | Whole Hog Sports


FAYETTEVILLE — Former Arkansas men’s basketball forward Bobby Portis was named a finalist for the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award on Sunday. 

Portis, who has been a standout performer with the Milwaukee Bucks this season, averages 13.8 points and 7.4 rebounds.

The other two finalists are Minnesota Timberwolves forward Naz Reid and Sacramento Kings guard Malik Monk, who graduated from Bentonville High School and played for new Arkansas coach John Calipari at Kentucky. The finalists were announced on TNT prior to a first-round playoff game between the Bucks and Indiana Pacers. 

Should Portis win, he would be the second former Razorback to win the award following Corliss Williamson in 2002.

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Portis, who is from Little Rock, led a storied Arkansas career. He was named SEC Player of the Year in 2015, becoming the first Razorback to earn the title since Williamson won back-to-back awards in 1994 and 1995. He was a finalist for national player of the year following his sophomore campaign and was a second-team All-American.

He was selected by the Chicago Bulls with the 22nd overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. Since then, he has played for the Bulls, Washington Wizards, New York Knicks and the Bucks. 

He won the 2021 NBA championship with Milwaukee.



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