Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Biletnikoff Award.
Hogs pick up Killian this time
Arkansas pitcher Trey Killian delivers the ball during the game against Vanderbilt on Friday April 18, 2014 in Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE The tide finally turned for Arkansas' most hard luck pitcher Friday night.
Despite three complete games in his last six starts entering the game, Trey Killian had only one win to his credit before the Razorbacks' 6-2 win over No. 18 Vanderbilt. During that six game stretch, Arkansas had only given the sophomore right-hander eight runs and his blemishes included 2-1 losses to South Carolina and California, and a 1-0 complete game loss to Florida.
With a 2.35 earned run average in 54 2/3 innings, it might be safe to say Killian is the best 2-6 pitcher in college baseball.
"He just really competes," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "He had good stuff but not his best stuff tonight. If you can win without your best stuff, that's huge. I just asked the team before the game to go out and find a way to score some runs for Trey."
The Razorbacks' offense made sure Killian's latest outing wouldn't go to waste Friday. Arkansas tagged Vanderbilt right-hander Tyler Deede - a former first round MLB draft pick - for six runs on 10 hits.
Eric Fisher hit a three-run home run during a four-run first inning to give Killian his largest lead of the season with which to work. Blake Baxendale added a run-scoring single in the third inning and Fisher had a sacrifice fly in the fifth as the Razorbacks made up for a pair of errors that gave Vanderbilt its only runs in the third inning.
"I couldn't be more happy tonight," Killian said. "Our hitters have been battling all year and tonight they put up six runs for me. It allowed me to pitch with the lead the whole game."
Killian cruised through most of his 6 2/3 innings on the mound. He wasn't overpowering, striking out only three batters and he struggled some with command after a perfect first inning.
"Usually he has a little more command with the fastball," Van Horn said. "He had a lot more 2-2, 3-2 counts than he normally has, but he challenged them."
Other than the errors, Arkansas' defense came through for its pitcher. Catcher Jake Wise made a great throw to second base to complete a double play after a Killian strikeout in the second inning and Michael Bernal began a more conventional double play to end the sixth.
The Razorbacks ended the fifth when Joe Serrano held on to a fly ball despite colliding with center fielder Tyler Spoon. The first baseman Fisher knocked down a ball to hold Vanderbilt to a single on a line drive that would have likely scored two runners on Killian's last pitch.
When Killian was chased with the bases loaded, the Razorbacks' bullpen came through. Three of Killian's five allowed hits came in the seventh inning, but reliever Zach Jackson struck out Jason Delay to end the threat without allowing a run.
Jackson worked around a two-out walk in the eighth inning and Michael Gunn worked a 1-2-3 ninth to close out the win.
"We turned a couple of nice double plays and got out of a jam, and the bullpen was outstanding," Van Horn said.
"I'm glad we kept his pitch count a little under 100 and with seven days rest he'll be ready to go again next weekend."