LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Little Rock pitchers combined for 15 strikeouts – including an impressive 11 by Hayden Arnold in six innings – and scored five of their six runs while facing two outs as the Trojans opened the 2020 season with a 6-0 shutout of Illinois State Friday afternoon at Gary Hogan Field.
Arnold (1-0) fanned a career-high 11 batters, allowing just five hits as he kept Illinois State (0-1) batters off guard throughout his six innings on the mound for Little Rock (1-0). Jose Torres (1) claimed the save after now allowing a hit and striking out four batters over the final three frames.
Miguel Soto struck early and late for Little Rock, scoring the game's first run after leading off the fifth with a double to left and eventually being sent home courtesy of an RBI groundout by Garrett Scott. Then he drove in two more runs with a double in the seventh inning, once again to left field, sending Kobe Barnum and Kale Emshoff across the plate.
Soto's first double led off a two-run frame in the fifth that saw Jorden Hussein drive in Tucker Childers with a single up the middle, giving Little Rock the 2-0 lead over Illinois State, co-champions of the Missouri Valley Conference last season and an NCAA Regional participant.
Colton Johnson (0-1) gave up those two runs in the fifth for Illinois State then allowed two more in the sixth as Childers and Garrett Scott pegged him for back-to-back RBI singles, adding two more runs to the Little Rock tally. Johnson would finish the game allowing four runs on seven hits while striking out eight.
Brady Huffman relieved Johnson in the seventh just to run into the red-hot Soto. But that came after a two-out fielding error by Illinois State's Ryan Cermak allowed the Trojans to load the bases. That is when Soto drilled his second double of the game, driving in two more runs for Little Rock.
The two teams will meet again at Gary Hogan Field on Saturday at 2 p.m. Eli Sievert makes the start for Little Rock while Illinois State will send Brett Wicklund to the mound.