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.
UA staff will face big chore
Arkansas starter Jalen Beeks delivers a pitch during the third inning against South Alabama Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - In a rare move, the SEC selected three players to honor last week as the conference’s pitcher of the week.
Each of those honorees will be on the mound over the next three days in Baton Rouge as Arkansas (21-13, 6-6 SEC) travels to No. 16 LSU (25-8-1, 6-5-1) for a key three-game series that begins today.
The Tigers will send out junior right-hander Aaron Nola (6-1, 0.47 ERA) in today’s 7 p.m. game at Alex Box Stadium to face Arkansas right-hander Trey Killian (1-5, 2.70). Nola shared last week’s SEC honors with Razorbacks left-hander Jalen Beeks (5-2, 1.05) and right-hander Chris Oliver (3-3, 1.99), who will start Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn, citing his team’s strong performance in last week’s series victory over No. 2 South Carolina, decided to stick with the same pitching order he used in that series, when Killian moved into the series-opening role.
“We played pretty good so we thought, ‘Hey, let’s just go with it again,’ ” Van Horn said.
Killian has received little run support all season with the Razorbacks scoring only five runs during his 40 innings pitched.
“He commands the fastball probably better than any pitcher we have, and now his breaking pitch is starting to come on and he’s using his change-up more,” Van Horn said. “He’s just been kind of the tough-luck guy.”
Asked this week if he’d like some of the 27 runs Arkansas has scored in its past three games, Killian grinned.
“Yeah, that would be awesome,” he said. “That would be great.”
Nola’s only loss came in a 2-1 setback at Florida on March 29 when the Gators’ Justin Shafer hit a home run off him with two outs in the ninth inning.
LSU has shutout victories in six of Nola’s seven other starts. The non-shutout came in a 4-2 victory at Vanderbilt, a game in which Nola allowed 1 earned run on 6 hits through 62/3 innings and the Tigers scored four runs in the eighth.
“Nola has been incredible his whole career there really, and the last two years he’s been almost unstoppable,” Van Horn said.
Nola allowed four hits, including Eric Fisher’s two-run home run, in a complete-game 6-2 victory at Arkansas last season.
“He can put it where he wants and commands his fastball, commands his slider, commands his change-up,” Arkansas outfielder Tyler Spoon said.
Nola has allowed just 27 hits in 11 walks in 57 innings.
“Nola is one of the best pitchers in the SEC, so I feel like that’s going to be a good matchup, me and him,” Killian said. “Hopefully a pitcher’s duel, keep it close the whole game and hopefully we can come out on top.”
The Tigers, who were swept at Florida two weekends ago, took all three from Mississippi State last weekend. The Tigers are hitting .275 with 16 home runs, which is down from last season when they batted .305 and hit 47 home runs in 68 games.
“Last year they had a lot of pop,” Van Horn said. “This year they try to do things. They like to hit-and-run and bunt.”
Beeks is scheduled to face freshman left-hander Jared Poche (6-2, 2.25) in Saturday’s noon game, and Oliver is scheduled to pitch Sunday against junior left-hander Kyle Bouman (3-1, 2.23).
Poche is coming off a six-inning gem in which he allowed three hits and no earned runs in a 2-1 victory over Mississippi State.
Today’s game ARKANSAS AT LSU WHEN 7 p.m. Central WHERE Alex Box Stadium, Baton Rouge RECORDS Arkansas 21-13, 6-6 SEC; LSU 25-8-1, 6-5-1 RANKINGS LSU is ranked No. 16 by Baseball America and No. 15 by Collegiate Baseball. Arkansas is ranked No. 24 by Perfect Game.
SERIES LSU leads 57-28 TV Cox Sports Television RADIO RSP statewide radio network. Not all games will be carried by affiliates. Check local listings.
INTERNET arkansasrazorbacks.com PITCHING MATCHUP Arkansas: Trey Killian (RHP, 1-5, 2.70 ERA); LSU Aaron Nola (RHP, 6-1, 0.47 ERA) SHORT HOPS All three games of the series will be televised. Friday and Sunday’s games will be shown on Cox Sports Television and Saturday’s game will be shown on ESPN2. … Arkansas’ last series victory at Alex Box Stadium was a three-game sweep in 2004. … Arkansas ranks last in the SEC in hitting (.259), fifth in pitching (2.30 ERA) and eighth in fielding (.970). LSU is eighth in hitting (.275), second in pitching (2.13 ERA)and second in fielding (.978). … The Tigers are coming off a home sweep of Mississippi State by a combined score of 22-5, including a 17-4 rout Sunday. … LSU won 3 of 5 last year against Arkansas, taking a series 2-1 in Fayetteville and splitting two games at the SEC Tournament. … The Razorbacks have never had a losing April in 11-plus seasons under Dave Van Horn.
THE WEEK AHEAD TODAY at LSU, 7 p.m. (CST) SATURDAY at LSU, noon (ESPN2) SUNDAY at LSU, 1 p.m. (CST) MONDAY off TUESDAY Stephen F. Austin, 6:35 p.m. WEDNESDAY off THURSDAY off
Tennessee 5, Georgia 3
TODAY’S GAMES All times
Central Missouri at Kentucky, 5:30 p.m.
Florida at South Carolina, 6 p.m.
Tennessee at Georgia, 6 p.m.
Texas A&M at Vanderbilt, 6:30 p.m.
Auburn at Alabama, 6:30 p.m.
Mississippi at Mississippi St., 6:30 p.m.
Arkansas at LSU, 7 p.m.
Sports, Pages 23 on 04/11/2014