FAYETTEVILLE - Even Mariano Rivera made it interesting sometimes.

FAYETTEVILLE - Even Mariano Rivera made it interesting sometimes.

The greatest closer in the history of Major League Baseball left the bullpen and headed to the mound accompanied by Metallica’s "Enter Sandman." The greatest pitcher the history of Arkansas baseball enters to Metallica’s "For Whom the Bell Tolls."

The Razorbacks needed that pitcher Saturday and, with some shaky moments, he delivered.

Nursing a one-run lead in the eighth inning and with a Central Michigan runner on third base, Arkansas turned to Zach Jackson. The preseason All-American and potential No. 1-overall pick in this summer’s MLB Draft struck out four batters in 1 2/3 innings of work and Arkansas took game two of the series, 4-3.

The first hitter Jackson faced, clean-up hitter Daniel Jipping, was clueless. He stared as Jackson threw three straight curveballs for strikes. Their speeds were 82 miles-per-hour, 84 and 82. Logan Regnier followed and didn’t bite on the first two pitches, again offspeed. Jackson finally threw a fastball - it was 95 - and Regnier fouled it off into the stands. A final curveball started off the plate and bent backward, catching enough of the plate to send Regnier back to the dugout.

Jackson’s coach was sufficiently impressed.

"The eighth inning he really had that breaking ball working," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "That’s really what he went to. And it had really good spin and downward bite. They struggled with it."

Jackson made trouble for himself in the ninth, though. Dazon Cole doubled, Daniel Robinson walked and Alex Borglin was hit by a pitch. The bases were loaded with two outs and Zach McKinstry was plunked, too. It didn’t tie the game, though, as Austin Catron’s first career RBI a half-inning earlier provided a run of insurance.

Jackson took Joe Houlihan to a 2-2 count with the bases still loaded and sat him swinging at a high fastball to end the game.

The Arkansas closer struck out four of the nine batters he faced, gave up one hit, one walk and hit two batters. His saved earned the win for freshman Blaine Knight, who worked five innings of four-hit, two-run ball with three strikeouts and no walks.

"That’s the situation you find yourself in a lot. That’s baseball," Jackson said. "If you’re facing a hitter, who knows he may have clutch hitting and you’ve got to have clutch pitching. It comes down to getting in these situations, practicing for SEC it’s really nice to be able to come through in some of these situations like we did today."

Catron had entered as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning for designated hitter Jack Benninghoff. The junior-college transfer had started in that spot in Friday’s season-opener. He took an 0-2 fastball to right field in his first and only at-bat Saturday and pinch-runner Damien Simms scored from second base to provide the eventual game-clinching run.

Like Friday, Van Horn used several players off the bench. Simms pinch-ran for Cullen Gassaway and was replaced in the field by Cody Scroggins. Catron entered for Benninghoff and Tucker Pennell replaced Grant Koch behind the plate about halfway through. Pitchers Cannon Chadwick and Barrett Loseke made their season debuts from the bullpen, too. Expected regulars Chad Spanberger and Alex Gosser have not played through two games because of injuries, Van Horn said.

"We’ll definitely sub guys in and out a lot. We’ll platoon a little bit. Go with the hot guy," Van Horn said. "We’ll keep moving them in and out, do some pinch-hitting, match up, you’ll see the same thing with our pitching staff.

Central Michigan held the lead for an inning-and-a-half when it scored two runs in the fourth. Jipping doubled home Houlihan and Cole’s groundout scored Jipping to put the Chippewas ahead, 2-1, after Gassaway’s sacrifice fly in the first.

Arkansas responded with two runs in its fifth when Clark Eagan’s RBI-single scored Eric Cole and a Rick Nomura double-play scored Carson Shaddy from third.

Cole, Shaddy and Eagan - the team’s No. 1, 2 and 3 hitters - each reached base twice, with Eagan and Shaddy collecting two hits and Cole a hit and a walk. Catron’s hit was the biggest and the only one the team had with two outs all day.

"He’s been doing that all fall," Eagan said. "No matter what the situation is, he seems to come through and I think we’re going to see a lot of that from him this year. He just seems to have that clutch gene or good approach."

Cole was the only Central Michigan player with two hits and he had a run and RBI. Starter Nick Deeg pitched five innings, allowing seven Arkansas hits and three runs while striking out six.

Deeg kept Arkansas hitters off-balance with his tendency to throw higher than most. But Deeg had nothing on Jackson, who strengthened his claim as one of college baseball’s elite

"A lot of people ask ‘You going to close Zach? You going to start him? He wants to start,’" Van Horn said. "Exactly what’s gone on is what we told him would probably happen. Early last year we were losing these games. We didn’t want to get off to that type of start and let games slip away. The game almost slipped away. If we didn’t have somebody like Zach on the mound it might have."

Follow Eric on Twitter: @ericwbolin

College Baseball


Arkansas 4, Central Michigan 3

Central Michigan 000 200 001 - 3 7 1

Arkansas 100 020 010 - 4 9 0

Deeg, Grosjean (6), Brettell (8) and Greenman. Knight, Chadwick (6), Loseke (8), Jackson (8) and Koch, Pennell. W - Knight (1-0). L - Deeg (0-1). Sv - Jackson (1)