Matt Jones has been the online sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette since 2010. He is also a feature writer for Hawgs Illustrated magazine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in documentary film.
Hogs cruise to opening win
Arkansas outfielder Tyler Spoon scores a run in front of Appalachian State catcher Ozzy Gonzalez during the first inning of the Razorbacks' season opener against Appalachian State Friday afternoon at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas couldn't have made it look much easier on opening day.
The No. 25 Razorbacks had solid performances at the plate and on the mound in a 12-2 win over Appalachian State at Baum Stadium. Arkansas won its 20th consecutive season-opener.
Jalen Beeks pitched 6 innings in his first career start, striking out six batters and allowing three hits. Beeks' outing was the longest for a Razorbacks pitcher in a season opener since Dallas Keuchel threw the same number of innings in 2009.
RECORDS: Arkansas 1-0; Appalachian State 0-1
WP: Jalen Beeks, 6 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 6 K
LP: Jamie Nunn, 3+ IP, 8 R, 8 H, 2 K
TURNING POINT: Arkansas got a double play in the top of the first inning and scored three runs in the bottom of the first to take control.
NOTABLE: Friday's win was Arkansas' 400th at Baum Stadium, which opened in 1996.
Beeks gave up a lead-off single in the first inning but settled down quickly. The left-hander was aided with a pair of double plays in the first two innings. Beeks retired 13 of the final 14 batters he faced.
Arkansas gave its pitcher plenty of run support. The Razorbacks took a 3-0 first inning lead with RBI singles by Tyler Spoon and Brett McAfee.
Krisjon Wilkerson added two more runs with a home run to right field in the fifth inning. Brian Anderson extended Arkansas' lead to 8-0 with a bases-clearing double with no outs in the fourth.
Anderson's hit chased Appalachian State starter Jamie Nunn, who gave up 8 runs on 8 hits in three innings. Nunn also had a wild pitch and hit a batter while striking out two batters.
The Razorbacks scored three more runs in the fifth inning. Joe Serrano's sacrifice fly plated Brett McAfee and two more scored when Appalachian State center fielder Jaylin Davis dropped a routine fly ball by Anderson that would have ended the inning.
Arkansas' offense recorded 13 hits. Five players had multi-hit games, led by Serrano and Wilkerson who each had three hits.
Appalachian State finally got on the board in the eighth inning. Arkansas freshman pitcher Dominic Taccolini hit a pair of batters to start the inning. William Head and Matt Brill both scored on a two-run single by Dillon Dobson, who was thrown out trying to advance to second base.
Wilkerson scored again in the eighth inning on a fielder's choice to cap the scoring. The junior college transfer finished the game 3-for-5 and was a triply shy of the cycle in his first game with the Razorbacks.
Jackson Lowery and Lance Phillips each threw scoreless innings in relief for Arkansas. The Razorbacks gave up only four hits.
The start of the game was delayed by one hour because of travel issues for Appalachian State, which is located in Boone, N.C. Around two-thirds of the team's players and coaching staff were in Fayetteville for the game after travel issues Thursday night and Friday morning.
Appalachian State split its team into two flights Friday after Thursday's flight from Charlotte was canceled. The players who made it arrived at Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport around 1:30 p.m. and the rest of the team is scheduled to arrive Friday night.
The two teams are scheduled to play again Saturday at noon.