FAYETTEVILLE — Sophomore catcher Dylan Leach played a big role in Arkansas defeating UCA 21-9 on Tuesday night slugging a pair of home runs and hitting for the cycle.
Leach, who is from Carthage, Texas, was five-for-five at the plate and knocked in five runs as well. He became the second Razorback in consecutive years to hit for the cycle against UCA. Second baseman Robert Moore did it last season. Dave Van Horn was very pleased to see his backup catcher have a game like that.
“Obviously Dylan Leach had the game of his life,” Van Horn said. “It’d be hard to ever duplicate that. Just really happy for him. He got it started with the, we’re down a couple runs and we tried to sac bunt and gave him the option to slug if they charged him, opened it up. We call it they ran a wheel type play and he drew the bat back and put a really good swing on the ball and hit a [triple] and we were off and running. Big night. Ended up being a good night.”
Van Horn gave Leach a hug in the huddle following the game. He talked about why he did that afterward.
“I mean, just proud of him,” Van Horn said. “I mean, he works as hard as anybody on the team and he hasn’t had a lot of opportunity and he took full advantage of it. I think the team was excited for him because catching is a tough position and it’s an even tougher position when you don’t play every day. Because what do you do? You put on the equipment and just sweat and you catch and you block and you get banged up. You want some reward, you want to play in the game more and he hasn’t played a whole bunch. Tonight, he let it all hang out, man. Had an unbelievable night and I think everybody on the bench was super excited about it, including me. I was kind of telling him I appreciated his effort.”
Leach said both his home runs were off fastballs. He also reacted to Van Horn giving him a hug in the huddle.
“He had never done that before with me,” Leach said. “I was trying to go into the huddle, but they insisted I go into the media thing, which I felt bad because I need to be there for the team. Then I got over there and and they were all making fun of me. Then they pulled me in and he hugged me and said he’d never seen that. He asked me how old he was. I said, ‘Coach I don’t know.’ He said, ‘Well, in my years of coaching, I’ve never seen that before.’ Then he hugged me.”
Leach has played in 10 games this season with eight starts. Even after the big night he’s still just hitting .222 with the two home runs and seven runs batted in. Leach had one hit in 22 at bats prior to Tuesday night’s breakout game.
“It’s really cool,” Van Horn said. “It’s really cool to see a guy square up the ball five times. It’s even better to see him hit for the cycle and help his team and then turn around and hit that second home run from the other side of the plate. I’ve never seen that. Have you ever seen that?”
Leach said he’s pretty sure he has never previously hit for the cycle. He talked about the big night after his slow start at the plate to the season.
“I mean it happens in baseball,” Leach said. “Baseball is a tough sport. You fail more than you succeed. I started off to a tough start but my players believed in me. My coaches believed in me. And so I just kept pushing every day and they just happen. I was blacked out during the game. I thank God, seriously. Because he put me where I was supposed to be.”
The switch-hitting Leach hit a home run from both sides against UCA.
“I’ve done it one time in one game when I was younger but that was it in high school,” Leach said.
Leach had a single, double and triple prior to his first home run to secure the cycle. He talked about his first home.
“I actually was thinking double out of the box because I didn’t think I hit it high enough,” Leach said. “So I was trying to hustle out of the box to get a double. And then I saw the people in the bullpen go crazy and then I knew. My mind just went blank that I just did that.”
Arkansas and Florida will begin a three-game series on Thursday night in Gainesville. The first game will begin at 5 p.m. CT and televised on the SEC Network. Arkansas is 22-7 on the season with 7-2 in the SEC.