Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Razorbacks show power at the plate
Arkansas' Eric Fisher rounds third base after hitting a two-run home run in the fifth inning of a game against LSU Sunday, April 13, 2014 at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. Arkansas won 10-4.
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas’ baseball team is enjoying a power surge going into tonight’s game against Stephen F. Austin.
The Razorbacks (22-15), who play the Lumberjacks (15-20) at 6:35 p.m. at Baum Stadium, have hit seven home runs in their last five games after hitting nine in their first 32 games.
Junior first baseman Eric Fisher hit three home runs at LSU over the weekend - one in each game - giving him a team-leading five for the season. Redshirt freshman Blake Baxendale hit his first home run, a grand slam in the Razorbacks’ 10-4 Sunday victory over the Tigers. And Tyler Spoon, Brian Anderson and Michael Bernal each hit home runs during a midweek two-game series against UNLV.
STEPHEN F. AUSTIN AT ARKANSAS
WHEN 6:35 p.m.
WHERE Baum Stadium, Fayetteville
RECORDS Arkansas 22-15, Stephen F. Austin 15-20
PITCHING MATCHUP Arkansas: Alex Phillips (RHP 3-0, 1.64 ERA). Stephen F. Austin: Halden Maynard (RHP 0-1, 9.00 ERA).
SHORT HOPS Arkansas second baseman Brian Anderson has a 13-game hitting streak and has a hit in 32 of 37 games this season. … First baseman Eric Fisher hit a home run in each of three games at LSU last weekend, the longest streak for a Razorback since Aaron Murphree hit a home run in six consecutive games during the 2008 season. … The Razorbacks are 4-0 against Stephen F. Austin.
“Sometimes it has to do with the weather is warming up,” Arkansas Coach Dave Horn said of the increased home runs. “Guys are starting to see the ball better. They’re a little more confident.
“Sometimes it has to do with the wind blowing out instead of blowing in. There are a lot of factors, but t I think more than anything it’s just that guys are starting to feel a little bit more comfortable at the plate.”
Fisher went 4 for 11 at LSU to raise his batting average to .244.
“Just getting Eric going was huge for us, and hopefully he can continue to swing the bat like that,” Van Horn said. “He was smiling a lot this weekend. I haven’t seen that a lot from him. That was great to see.
“It was big for him personally to get his confidence level up. He’s obviously a power bat in the middle of our lineup, and he hasn’t had a tremendous first half. But it’s like I told him yesterday [Sunday] on the bus, ‘Let’s just turn it around.’ “
Fisher has started 33 games, thanks to his defensive skill at first base, which has helped Arkansas turn an SEC-leading 37 double plays.
“That’s one reason you go with a guy sometimes when he’s struggled offensively, because he can save runs for you on the defensive end,” Van Horn said. “Fisher’s done that for us.”
Freshman right-hander Alex Phillips (3-0, 1.64 earned run average) will start for Arkansas against Stephen F. Austin junior right-hander Halden Maynard (0-1, 9.00). Phillips pitched six scoreless innings in the Razorbacks’ 9-2 victory over UNLV last Wednesday night.
“I think Alex pitched super,” Van Horn said. “It will be a game where we’ve got four or five guys ready to go. If he goes good, we’ll let him go for a while. If it’s just OK, we’ll get some guys some work.”
Arkansas, which plays host to Vanderbilt this weekend, has one midweek game after playing two in each of the previous four weeks.
“We’ll get a little bit of rest,” Van Horn said. “We’ll actually get to practice twice before the Vanderbilt series, which will be nice.”
Van Horn said he’s confident the Razorbacks won’t look past Stephen F. Austin, which hast lost five consecutive games - two to New Mexico and three to Oral Roberts - but has victories over Alabama, Wichita State and Texas Tech.
“They know how important every game is now,” Van Horn said.
The Razorbacks, with 15 regular-season SEC games remaining, are 7-8 and in a five-way tie for seventh place in the overall standings and would be one of the 12 teams to qualify for the SEC postseason tournament if it started today.
But there’s not much leeway for Arkansas, or any of the teams it is tied with, with the there 12-place teams - Auburn, Tennessee and Missouri - just one game back at 6-9.
Sports, Pages 19 on 04/15/2014