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.
Newcomers jump into mix for Hogs
Arkansas infielder Willie Schwanke makes a play to throw out a Western Illinois runner in the second inning of Sunday afternoon's game at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas brought back a deep pitching staff and a solid core of offensive players from its College World Series appearance in 2012.
The Razorbacks’ effort to return to Omaha, Neb., has received a boost through the season’s first week from a large group of newcomers as veterans like pitchers Randall Fant and Colby Suggs and infielder Dominic Ficociello have been given time to mend injuries.
Arkansas, which hosts Evansville in a three-game series beginning at 3:05 p.m. today, already has pitching victories from newcomers Colin Poche and Landon Simpson.
Freshman outfielder Tyler Spoon is batting .444, has a .545 on-base percentage and a team-high 6 runs batted in. Spoon and fellow newcomers Eric Fischer and Willie Schwanke also have combined to hit the Razorbacks’ three home runs.
“You talk about Spoon and some of these guys are already big-time contributors,” said Coach Dave Van Horn, whose team is ranked No. 2 by Collegiate Baseball and No. 3 by Baseball America.
Poche took a no-hitter into the fifth inning of his first start last week before giving up a hit in a 14-0 rout of New Orleans. His work was backed up by two-run home runs by Spoon and Schwanke, both opposite-field shots.
“We’re looking to make an impact right now to help this team get back to where it was last year and even farther,” Poche said.
Spoon is tied with senior Matt Vinson for the team lead with eight hits.
“First game, honestly, I was a little nervous. That’s normal,” Spoon said. “I’m finally getting to where I just feel comfortable now at the plate, just taking that same mind-set I’ve been taking in practices and scrimmages and I just feel good at the plate.”
Spoon has already settled into the No. 3 spot in the batting order.
“We’ve played five games and it seemed like he’s hit the ball hard a couple times a game,” Van Horn said. “Tyler is a threat. He hits for average and also drives the ball over your head if you make a mistake, so I like the way he goes up there and swings.” Freshman Trey Killian of Mountain Home threw three shutout innings in relief against Western Illinois, and the 6-2 right-hander is scheduled to enter the weekend rotation with a Sunday start against Evansville.
“He wanted to pitch [Tuesday], but he threw a bullpen session [Monday] and he pitched Friday and we felt like we had some good arms, so he’s excited about pitching on the weekend,” Van Horn said.
Evansville (1-2) already has played three games in Arkansas, having dropped its opening series at UALR last weekend.
The Purple Aces will send out left-hander Kyle Freeland (1-0, 1.29 ERA) today against Arkansas sophomore Ryne Stanek (1-0, 2.25). Junior right hander Barrett Astin (1-0, 1.80) will get the ball Saturday for the Razorbacks.
EVANSVILLE AT ARKANSAS
WHEN 3:05 p.m. today, 1:05 p.m.
Saturday and 1:05 p.m. Sunday WHERE Baum Stadium, Fayetteville RECORDS Evansville 1-2; Arkansas 4-1 RADIO Razorback Sports Network, which includes KABZ-FM, 103.7, Little Rock; KQSM-FM, 92.1, Fayetteville; KURM-AM, 790, Bentonville-Rogers; KASR-FM, 92.7, Conway; KHGG-FM, 103.1, Fort Smith; KELD-FM, 106.5, El Dorado; KOMT-FM, 107.5, Mountain Home. Not all games will be carried by affiliates. Check local listings.
TODAY’S PITCHING MATCHUP Evansville: LHP Kyle Freeland (1-0, 1.29); Arkansas: RHP Ryne Stanek (1-0, 2.25) SHORT HOPS With inclement weather a possibility, Arkansas officials have said they may adjust start times if needed. ... Arkansas has four regulars hitting .348 or better: Brian Anderson (.467), Jacob Mahan (.462), Tyler Spoon (.444) and Matt Vinson (.348). Four other regulars are batting .214 or worse. … Evansville has six batters hitting better than .300, led by Kevin Kaczmarski (.417), Shain Showers (.400), Kyle Pollock (.364) and John Day (.364). … The Purple Aces committed one error in their opening series at UALR, while Arkansas has four errors in five games. … The Razorbacks have 11 stolen bases in 12 attempts compared to Evansville’s 5 in 6 attempts.
TODAY vs. Evansville 3:05 p.m.
SATURDAY vs. Evansville 1:05 p.m.
SUNDAY vs. Evansville 1:05 p.m.
MONDAY off TUESDAY off WEDNESDAY off THURSDAY at Arizona State, 5 p.m.
Sports, Pages 17 on 02/22/2013