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 get late start, but finish it quickly
Arkansas pitcher Jalen Beeks fires a pitch during the first inning of the Razorbacks' season opener against Appalachian State Friday afternoon at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Appalachian State’s problems were only getting started when the Mountaineers struggled to get out of snow-shrouded Charlotte, N.C., and into Northwest Arkansas.
Appalachian State ran into a hot-hitting Arkansas offense and a sharp start from left-hander Jalen Beeks as the No. 25 Razorbacks dominated the season opener 12-2 on Friday.
Arkansas won its 20th consecutive season-opening game, dating to a 7-3 loss at TCU in 1994, on a breezy afternoon before a crowd of 4,337 at Baum Stadium.
The game was delayed an hour after Appalachian State ran into trouble getting out of Charlotte. Appalachian State Coach Billy Jones said the Mountaineers had one of their two flights canceled in Charlotte, and a group of only 20 Mountaineers made it to the park about 2:15 p.m. The rest of the team was scheduled to arrive in Arkansas about 7:40 p.m.
Once the game started, the Razorbacks wasted no time getting to right-hander Jamie Nunn (0-1), who gave up Tyler Spoon’s run-scoring single and Brett McAfee’s two-out, two-run single in a three-run first inning.
Designated hitter KJ Wilkerson hit an opposite-field two-run home run to right field through a stiff breeze, Joe Serrano went 3 for 3 with 2 runs scored, and Brian Anderson had a three-run double among his three hits.
“I was just really impressed with the way we handled ourselves in the batter’s box,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said.
Beeks (1-0), making his first start at Arkansas, allowed 3 hits and 1 walk and struck out 6 while throwing 72 pitches through 6 innings. The Razorbacks turned double plays behind him after Appalachian State had lead off singles in the first and second innings, and the junior retired 13 of the last 14 batters he faced.
“I struggled at the beginning of the game,” Beeks said. “I got the jitters out of the way after the first two or three innings. I felt a lot more comfortable in the last three innings.”
The Razorbacks pounded out 13 hits, knocking Nunn out of the game in the fourth inning after Anderson’s bases-clearing double made it 8-0.
“I was able to get it to a full count and he left me a fastball out over the plate and I was just able to put a good swing on it, and we were kind of able to put the game away at that point,” Anderson said.
“Jamie Nunn, who’s been our Friday night guy for two years, is usually down in the zone,” Jones said. “He wasn’t down in the zone today and they made him pay. Good hitters do that.”
Wilkerson, a 6-2, 220-pound junior college transfer, struck out looking in his first at-bat but didn’t miss a fat pitch in the third inning with Spoon on base.
“I got a good pitch to hit, a little bit up in the zone, tried to stay through it a little,” said Wilkerson, whose shot was just over the fence and out of the reach of right fielder Preston Troutman.
“He’s got a really flat swing and a very good eye,” Van Horn said of Wilkerson. “He’s tough, and as you saw tonight he really goes the other way well.”
Serrano sparked the first-inning rally with a one out single and was on board, along with nine-hole batter Bobby Wernes and lead off man Andrew Benintendi, for Anderson’s ringing double to the left-center gap.
“I kind of felt like we got out there and we wanted to show them what we could do early,” Serrano said. “It was almost near a month before we finally got out there on the field, and we were just excited to be out there.”
Appalachian State’s lone scoring came in the eighth off of Arkansas freshman Dominic Taccolini, who hit the first two batters he faced and then allowed a two-run single to Dillon Dobson with one out.
Today’s game ARKANSAS VS. APPALACHIAN STATE WHEN 12:05 p.m. today WHERE Baum Stadium, Fayetteville RECORDS Arkansas 1-0; Appalachian State 0-1 RADIO RSP statewide radio network.
Not all games will be carried by affiliates. Check local listings.
INTERNET www.arkansasrazorbacks.com and ESPN3
Sports, Pages 21 on 02/15/2014