HOOVER, Alabama -- With two swings of its bats, 2-seed Arkansas changed the trajectory of its SEC Baseball Tournament and pushed 10-seed Texas A&M to the brink of elimination on Wednesday at the Hoover Met.
The biggest swing belonged to designated hitter Kendall Diggs, who launched the game-winner homer on a 2-1 pitch to lead off the bottom of the 11th inning, lifting a big fly over the left-field fence for the dramatic and hard-fought 6-5 Arkansas victory.
"For me, going up there, I didn't want to jump on something that really wasn't over the plate," Diggs said. "I wanted to make him come to me, and he did with that first-pitch fastball. The next two were really good pitches, probably maybe a ball down, so 2-1 count. I knew he was going to challenge me with something. I was just trying to get the head out, and it was good."
It wasn't just good. It was great.
Four innings earlier, the same could be said for the swing taken by his teammate, Jared Wegner.
With one big swing of Wegner's bat in the bottom of the seventh, Arkansas erased the lead Texas A&M had held virtually all game, as Wegner's blast over the left-field wall came with the bases loaded. His grand slam gave the Razorbacks their first lead of the game at 5-4.
"With my grand slam, the previous two at-bats I was kind of late on a lot of fastballs, and they were attacking me with fastballs," Wegner said. "They brought in (reliever Brandyn) Garcia who has velo, so I was kind of hunting a fastball middle in and got it off on that first pitch."
The lead was short-lived, however, as Austin Bost's own blast to left to lead off the top of the ninth tied it, 5-5, setting the stage for extra innings and, eventually, Diggs' final heroics.
Arkansas had its chances in the bottom of the 10th, trying a safety squeeze that backfired with one out when pinch runner Hunter Grimes was thrown out trying to score by sliding head-first into home.
Between the dramatic Arkansas homers, there were plenty of fine defensive plays and some solid pitching in the affair that Texas A&M seemingly had under control for much of the game.
Texas A&M jumped on top early in the top of the third inning after Brett Minnich led off with a double to left center. Max Kaufer singled and leadoff hitter Hunter Haas walked, loading the bases. After Zack Morris came in to pitch, replacing starter Cody Adcock for Arkansas, Minnich scored on Jack Moss' RBI grounded out while Kaufer advanced to third and Haas to second.
Trevor Werner then delivered the big blow of the inning, knocking a two-RBI single through the left side of the infield to score both Kaufer and Hass, giving the Aggies a 3-0 lead.
The Aggies made it a 4-0 advantage when Ryan Targac led off the next inning with a solo home run.
Meanwhile, Arkansas left seven runners on base over the first four innings, including two in each of the first three frames.
The Razorbacks broke through, sort of, in the bottom of the fourth when the scored without the benefit of a hit. Harold Coll walked and Parker Rowland was hit by a pitch, with Coll advancing to third and Rowland to second on a subsequent passed ball. Tavian Josenberger then lifted a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Coll.
But even then, the Razorbacks left Rowland stranded at third.
Their frustrations at the plate continued until the two big swings from Werner and Diggs finally settled it.
Dave Van Horn, coach of the Razorbacks, credited the relief pitching of Morris and winning pitcher Will McEntire, who took over for Morris to start the eighth and threw the final four innings, with the win as much as the home runs of Werner and Diggs. Together, the two of them combined to throw nine complete innings of five-hit ball, giving up just one run each, walking two and striking out eight.
"Zack Morris was the story, five-plus innings, I think 80-something pitches, and gave up a run. Just a super job by Zack," Van Horn said. "Then Will coming in and just throwing nothing but strikes, he gave up one home run. They hit a couple balls hard, obviously, but he also got them out front a lot, and we had some quick innings."
HOW IT HAPPENED
T3 | Texas A&M's Minnich led off the inning by doubling to left center. Kaufer singled to left, advancing Minnich to third. Haas walked, loading the bases. Zack Morris came in to pitch, replacing starter Cody Adcock for Arkansas. Moss grounded out, scoring Minnich while advancing Kaufer to third and Haas to second. Werner singled through the left side, scoring Kaufer and Hass. Texas A&M 3, Arkansas 0.
T4 | Targac led off the inning with a solo homer to left center. Texas A&M 4, Arkansas 0.
B4 | With one out for the Razorbacks, Coll walked and Rowland was hit by a pitch, with Coll advancing to third and Rowland to second on a subsequent passed ball. Josenberger lifted a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Coll. Texas A&M 4, Arkansas 1.
B7 | Rowland walked to start the inning. With one out, Diggs reached on a fielding error by Haas, the Texas A&M shortstop, advancing Rowland to second. Brandyn Garcia replaced Shane Sdao on the mound for the Aggies. Bohrofen walked, loading the bases. Wegner launched a monster home run to left for a grand slam. Arkansas 5, Texas A&M 4.
T9 | Bost led off the inning with a game-tying homer to left for the Aggies. Arkansas 5, Texas A&M 5.
B11 | Diggs led off with the game-winning home run, a bomb over the left-field fence. Arkansas 6, Texas A&M 5.
Arkansas (40-15) advances to play 3-seed LSU in a winner's bracket game Thursday at 5:30 p.m.
Texas A&M (33-24) moves into the loser's bracket portion of the tournament and will face South Carolina Thursday at 10:30 a.m.
Both games will be televised on SEC Network.