Matt Jones is the online sports editor for the Arkansas-Democrat-Gazette and Northwest Arkansas Newspapers.
Top lefty on-deck Friday against Arkansas
Gonzaga junior Marco Gonzales is one of the top college prospects in the country.
SURPRISE, Ariz. Arkansas will face one of college baseball's top prospects tonight at the Coca-Cola Classic.
Gonzaga left-hander Marco Gonzales might be off to a rough start with a 1-1 record and 4.15 earned run average, but the junior is still expected to be one of the top picks in June's MLB Draft. Gonzales was ranked by Baseball America as the 11th-best college prospect in the preseason and second best left-hander.
He was 8-2 on the mound last season with a 1.55 ERA, striking out just fewer than one batter per inning. Gonzales also bats for the Bulldogs, carrying a .300 average and 4 RBIs into Friday's contest.
Barrett Astin will start Friday's game for Arkansas (7-2). Astin, a junior right-hander, is 1-0 this season with a 0.82 ERA. The Razorbacks still have several of their top bullpen arms available, only using left-hander Jalen Beeks for 2 1/3 innings of relief in a 3-2 loss to Arizona State on Thursday.
Arkansas had several chances to score runs against the Sun Devils, but stranded 10 base runners, including seven scoring position. Gonzalez will gave the Razorbacks another look at a quality left-hander after the team recorded seven hits off freshman lefty Brett Lilek Thursday night.
It will also give Arkansas a chance to keep switch-hitting second baseman Dominic Ficociello in the starting lineup. Ficociello, who injured his oblique in the preseason, batted only from the right side in his first game Thursday, recording two hits in three at-bats.
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said Ficociello will continue to hit against left-handed pitchers as he heals from the injury. ASU is expected to throw another left-hander in their meeting Saturday.