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.
Hogs, Rebels rely on pitching
Arkansas starter Colin Poche delivers a pitch during the fourth inning against Nebraska Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas baseball Coach Dave Van Horn’s message was a simple one during his Monday appearance in front of the Swatter’s Club before today’s start of a two-game series with UNLV: College pitching rocks.
“This is my 12th year in the SEC and this may be the deepest pitching I’ve seen,” Van Horn said at the Guest-House Hotel. “We’ve got a lot of Friday guys pitching on Saturdays and Sundays.”
Van Horn extended that comment to include pitchers like the Razorbacks’ lefthander Colin Poche (2-0, 1.27 ERA) “when he commands his breaking pitch” and UNLV right-hander Kenny Oakley (2-2, 1.37), who has allowed 32 hits and 12 walks in 46 inningsthis season.
Poche and Oakley will take the mound tonight at 6:35 as the Razorbacks (20-12) host the Rebels (22-9) for the first time.
“I knew UNLV was goingto be good when they found out we had an opening and they called me,” Van Horn said.
“Their pitching numbers are outstanding. … Their numbers remind me of an SEC team, with dominating pitching, pretty good defense and just enough offense. They’re a team that has played a very good schedule. ”
The games will match two of the nation’s top pitching staffs. Arkansas’ team earnedrun average was 2.22 before dropping it to 2.19 with a series victory over then-No. 1 South Carolina last week. The Rebels had a 2.35 ERA last week before dropping it to 2.15 while winning 2 of 3 games at Fresno State, including two shutouts.
UNLV has won all five of its weekend series since being swept at Tennessee on Feb. 21-23, including taking 2 of 3 at Nebraska the weekend before the Cornhuskers split two games at Arkansas.
Arkansas took 2 of 3 from South Carolina last weekend,holding the Gamecocks to three runs. The Razorbacks have gone 12-5 with six shutouts since dropping their first two SEC games at Florida.
“It seems like we’re getting better and we’re winning some close games after we didn’t win any close games early,” Van Horn said.
UNLV leads the Mountain West with an 11-4 record. The Rebels have the Mountain West’s best pitching staff, rank third in hitting (.290) and tied for fourth in fielding (.967). The Rebels have six players hitting .300 or better, led by regulars T.J. White (.322, 1 home run, 24 RBI), Edgar Montes (.321, 1, 16) and Justin Jones (.320, 2, 14).
The Razorbacks rank 13th in the SEC in hitting (.255), fourth in team ERA (2.19) and ninth in fielding (.971).
Van Horn said freshman right-hander Alex Philliips (2-0, 2.25 ERA) will make his sixth start on Wednesday, while the Rebels plan to start sophomore right-hander Cody Roper (1-0, 7.88).
Sports, Pages 19 on 04/08/2014