By John Thomas
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Sophomore catcher Casey Opitz delivered a 2-0 fastball down the left field line in the bottom of the 10th inning Sunday afternoon to help the sixth-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks defeat the 18th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers, 4-3, in walk-off fashion for their second-straight SEC series sweep and seventh conference win in a row.
Opitz, who came into the at-bat 0-for-4 and with just one hit in the series, came up in the 10th with two outs and runners on second and two outs and sent the 9,419 fans in Baum-Walker Stadium home happy as he was able to score Jack Kenley with his hit. It was Opitz second walk-off hit this year as he also had the walk-off single in the series finale against Missouri (March 17), which also finished off a sweep.
Arkansas (34-11, 15-6 SEC) actually struggled at the plate early on against Tennessee (31-14, 9-12 SEC) starting pitcher Zach Linginfelter, managing just two runs in 4.1 innings, one coming off a solo home run by Kenley in the second. Linginfelter finished with nine strikeouts, but was relieved in the fifth inning after loading the bases with one out. Redmond Walsh came into the game in a tight spot and hit Heston Kjerstad on his first pitch to bring Arkansas’ second run home.
After leaving runners in scoring position in the fifth, seventh and eighth innings and with Tennessee taking a 3-2 lead, the Hogs finally got the big swing it needed to tie the game and send it to extras in the bottom of the ninth. Christian Franklin, who was coming off a four-hit game, tailed a 2-1 pitch the opposite way and wrapped it around the foul pole for his fifth home run of the year, tying the game at 3-3.
Franklin was 2-for-3 in the game and finished the series 7-for-11 (.636) with three extra-base hits and two RBIs. He joined Kenley as the only Razorbacks with a multi-hit performance on Sunday. Following his homer in the second, Kenley had a double in the fourth and a single in the 10th that helped extend the game-winning rally. It’s his second game with three or more hits this year.
Arkansas will play its final non-conference game of the year on Tuesday when it travels down to North Little Rock, Arkansas to play Grambling State in Dickey-Stephens Park. Game time is slated for 6:30 p.m., but will not be televised in any capacity.