Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Arkansas comes out swinging in a sweep
Arkansas batter Tyler Spoon puts the ball into play during his at bat in the sixth inning of the first game in Tuesday afternoon's doubleheader against New Orleans at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas took one laugher and one nail-biter while getting dominating pitching through both ends of a doubleheader sweep against New Orleans on Tuesday.
The Razorbacks piled up 17 runs and allowed a total of five hits in 14-0 and 3-0 victories before a crowd of 1,943 at Baum Stadium.
The schools were scheduled to play single games Tuesday and today, but the threat of winter weather in today’s forecast for Northwest Arkansas led to the doubleheader to help the Privateers’ travel plans.
Arkansas (4-1), ranked No. 2 by Collegiate Baseball and No. 3 by Baseball America,flexed its muscle in its first game back following Sunday’s 7-5 loss to Western Illinois, pounding out 12 hits, including two-run home runs by freshmen Tyler Spoon and Willie Schwanke in support of freshman Colin Poche, who combined with Cade Lynch on a one-hitter.
Arkansas led 8-0 after two innings and finished off the Privateers (0-5) in seven innings because of the 10-run rule.
“We were on a mission today, and you could tell in the dugout the feeling was just there,” said Spoon, who has a hit in all five games this season. “We knew we were going to come out and win today.”
Poche, a left-hander, gave up one hit while striking out six in his five-inning debut. He had command of his fastball and got hitters to chase his change-up and had a no-hitter through two outs in the fifth, when No. 9 hitter Dan Perkins reached on a single to left.
“I noticed everybody started clapping and I was thinking I didn’t know what they were clapping about,” Poche said. “I looked at the scoreboard and I saw that it was the first hit. I didn’t really think about it until then.”
Poche, staked to a huge early lead, threw 72 pitches and walked three.
“Poche came out and did an outstanding job of just throwing strikes,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “He was spotting his fastball really well. First outing, a lot of times you have a little bit of the jitters, but I thought he pitched pretty well. I thought his velocity actually picked up more in the second, third and fourth innings and he threw a nice breaking ball.”
Lynch, who had a series of surgeries to relieve migraines, walked his first batter in the sixth but retired the next six in his first appearance since last May 18.
Arkansas jumped on righthander Daniel Martinez (0-1) with five runs in the first inning, highlighted by Spoon’s two-run opposite-field shot over the right-field wall. Spoon went 2 for 5 and drove in 3 runs. Schwanke’s home run capped the scoring in the seventh and drove in Brian Anderson, who reached base on all five plate appearances, including three walks, and scored four runs.
Second baseman Jacob Mahan drove in a run on his first four at-bats and was 3 for 5 with 4 RBI.
“The wind was blowing out, and we hit the ball hard and took control early with that five runs in the first and let the pitchers get it done from there,” Van Horn said.
The second game was much tighter as the temperature began dropping.
“In the second game, any time you score 14 runs and get a bunch of hits and have another game, I knew it would be tight,” Van Horn said. “Very rarely do you go double digits two games in a row on the same day.”
Arkansas designated hitter Michael Gunn ripped an opposite-field double to the wall in left-center with one out in the second and scored on catcher Jake Wise’s two-out single for the only run in the first five innings.
Freshman right-hander Landon Simpson (1-0) gave up three hits in three innings and was awarded the victory based on his predetermined pitch count. Colby Suggs, who had been sidelined by an oblique muscle injury, worked the fourth inning, then the left-hander Gunn came in and struck out six Privateers and allowed just one hit over the next four innings.
“He enticed those guys toswing at some high fastballs, but he also spotted some fastballs,” Van Horn said.
“It felt great to come out there my first time this year playing and doing how I did,” Gunn said. “I’ve worked hard all off-season leading up to today.”
Jalen Beeks of Prairie Grove finished off the fourhitter with a scoreless ninth for his first save.
The Razorbacks gave Gunn a little breathing room in the sixth when Wise’s ground ball to short drove in Anderson, who led off with a walk andmoved up on Gunn’s grounder and a wild pitch.
Jacob Morris laid down a bunt single with one out in the seventh, stole second and third and came home to make it 3-0 when catcher Brian Dixon’s throw to try to catch Eric Fisher stealing second sailed into center field.
SHORT HOPS Freshman Tyler Spoon (.444) and senior Matt Vinson (.348) are the only Razorbacks who have recorded a hit in all five games after Brian Anderson (.467) went 0 for 3 in the second game Tuesday. ... Sophomore Colby Suggs made his season debut for Arkansas in the second game, walking two and throwing 20 pitches in a scoreless fourth inning. Suggs had been slowed by a strained oblique muscle. ... Coach Dave Van Horn said freshman right-hander Trey Killian, who threw a bullpen session Monday in anticipation of a start today, will make his first start Sunday against Evansville. ... Evansville opened its season by losing 2 of 3 at UALR’s Hogan Field last weekend. ... Left-hander Kyle Freeman earned the victory in the opener for the Purple Aces with eight strikeouts and no walks in his seven-inning start. ... The Purple Aces dropped one-run decisions in the final two games, 8-7 and 6-5.
Sports, Pages 20 on 02/20/2013