COLLEGE BASEBALL:

Razorbacks warm up in hurry

By: RICK HARVEY, SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE
Published: Sunday, February 17, 2013
Arkansas pitcher Barrett Astin delivers a pitch Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013, during the second inning of the Hogs' win over Western Illinois at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas pitcher Barrett Astin delivers a pitch Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013, during the second inning of the Hogs' win over Western Illinois at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.

— Arkansas made it quick and easy Saturday.

With temperatures hovering around freezing and wind chills in the 20s, the top-ranked Razorbacks baseball team needed less than two hours to beat Western Illinois 7-2 at Baum Stadium.

“It was a good day for a quick game,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said.

An announced crowd of 3,030 braved 32-degree temperatures as it watched the Razorbacks (2-0) get another strong performance from two pitchers and timely hits scattered throughout the lineup, all in the span of 1 hour and 58 minutes.

“It’s tough to play when it’s cold. It’s not only tough on your body, but it’s also tough mentally,” said senior left-fielder Matt Vinson, who was 2 for 4 with 2 RBI. “We had quick innings today andthose really help.”

Junior right-hander Barrett Astin (1-0) and sophomore left-hander Jalen Beeks had a lot to do with that as Western Illinois (0-2) was retiredin order three times and had only one batter reach in two more at-bats.

Astin allowed 1 run and 1 walk while striking out 3 in 5 innings. Just as righthander Trey Killian did in Friday’s season-opening victory, Beeks gave Arkansas another promising relief performance Saturday. The junior-college transfer from Prairie Grove gave up 2 hits and struck out 4 with no walks in 3 innings.

“Beeks was impressive,” Astin said. “He had a good slider today. He’ll be a dominant guy out of the bullpen for us.”

After stranding two runners in the first inning, Arkansas’ offense picked it up in the second. After Jacob Mahan doubled and Joe Serrano was hit by a pitch, Vinson drove in both two outs later with a two-strike single to right field.

“That was the big hit of the game for us,” Van Horn said. “It was a slower-motion game because of the temperature, and for us to get that big hit with two outs, two strikes, gave us a two-run lead and set the tone.”

The Leathernecks got a run back off Astin in the third when Neil DeCook led off with a walk and scored on a one-out single to left by Brent Turner. Western Illinois had two on with one out in the fourth before Astin clamped down and retired the next five batters. He left the game after63 pitches, 42 for strikes.

“I thought Barrett had some good innings, and I thought he threw pretty well,” Van Horn said. “He’s usually a little more under control with his fastball, but I think it was just too cold to get a good grip and a great feel out there.”

Astin, pegged to be the Razorbacks’ No. 2 starter, agreed it wasn’t a perfect first outing.

“It took me a few pitches to get loose,” he said. “After that I think I settled in pretty well. I didn’t have my best stuff today. I was just average. I need to work on a few things.”

Arkansas made it 3-1 in the fourth when Brian Anderson singled and scored on a groundout by Serrano. The Razorbacks set their final cushion in a four-run, four-hit sixth inning, highlighted by an RBI single by Serrano and an RBI double by Jake Wise.

Sophomore right-hander Tyler Willman (0-1) took the loss for Western Illinois. He allowed 7 runs on 7 hits andwalked 3 while striking out 2 in 5 1/3 innings.

“I’m proud of our team,” Van Horn said. “We got off to a slow start, but I give credit to their pitcher, Willman. I thought he did a good job and everything he threw was sinking and diving and moving, and he kept us off-balance. We got the big hit in the second inning to take the lead, and that gave us a chance to relax a little, and then we got the big inning in the sixth.”

Western Illinois scored its only other run in the ninth on a single by DeCook off junior right-handed reliever Thomas Altimont, who pitched the ninth for the Razorbacks.

Anderson and Vinson were both 2 for 4, and Serrano was 1 for 3 with 2 RBI and 2 runs scored.

“Anytime you score three runs or more in an inning then it’s a really good inning,” Van Horn said. “I’m proud of the hitters. We had too many fly balls today, but they battled hard. We’re also playing pretty good defense. It’s good to see.”

SHORT HOPS

Arkansas second baseman Dominic Ficociello missed his second consecutive game after aggravating an oblique injury Friday during warm-ups.... The Razorbacks improved to 6-0 all-time against Western Illinois. ... The temperature was 32 degrees when the first pitch was thrown Saturday. Today’s forecast for Fayetteville calls for sunny skies with highs in the 60s and lows in the 40s.

Sports, Pages 27 on 02/17/2013

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