FAYETTEVILLE — Benched Sunday because of his .194 batting average, sophomore Preseason All-SEC center fielder Dominic Fletcher resurfaced as Arkansas’ hitting hero.
Pinch-hitter Fletcher delivered the game-ending, eighth-inning, bases-loaded single that broke a 6-6 tie and beat the University of Southern California Trojans, 7-6, after Arkansas beat the clock to win two of a 3-game series watched by 20,454 for the weekend at Baum Stadium.
“The team was highly excited for the win but probably just as excited for Dominic to get that big hit,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “He has had a lot of struggles and his teammates were really pulling for him to come through.”
They gave Fletcher almost a College World Series type reception as he was minus his jersey and soaked upon his game-winner.
" I saw them coming after me crazy, so I took off into right field to try and get away, but they caught me,” Fletcher said postgame. “Luckily they pulled it (the jersey) over my head, so no rips. But I got a nice Gatorade bath. It was pretty big, not only for me but for our team to come off that series with two wins and send them home.”
Winning four games in five days, the Razorbacks swept two from Dayton on Wednesday and Thursday, boosts Arkansas to 9-3 before hosting Kent State in a 3-game nonconference series starting Friday at Baum while Pac 12 power USC headed, 8-3 back to Los Angeles.
Sunday’s 3,635 on a cold, dark, windy day was the sparsest crowd of the series that Arkansas opened Friday topping the Trojans, 4-0 on the combined shutout of winning starter Blaine Knight of Bryant and 3-inning save reliever Jackson Rutledge and Luke Bonfield’s two-run home run and 3 RBI.
USC prevailed 3-1 Saturday, as Trojan lefty starter Quentin Longrie and relievers Brad Legman and Connor Lunn scattered nine hits with Eric Cole’s solo home run the lone Arkansas hit proving significant.
Because the Trojans had a plane to catch back to Los Angeles, Sunday’s 12:30 p.m,. by prearrangement was not to start an inning after 4 p.m.
“I told coach Anderson I’d be coaching basketball if I would be coaching with a clock,” Van Horn said referencing Arkansas basketball coach Mike Anderson said. “I don’t like it. I want to make sure we’re getting our allotment of outs."
So upon finishing the seventh inning down 6-5 , the Hogs hustled back on the field with five minutes to spare for ultimately winning freshman reliever Rutledge to enter the game and limit the Trojans to an eighth-inning walk.