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.
UA takes hits anyway it can
Arkansas center fielder Andrew Benintendi (16) comes in at second as Appalachian State second baseman Michael Pierson makes the relay to first during the first inning Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville. Benintendi would later score on a Tyler Spoon double.
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas had a nine-hit game on Sunday at Baum Stadium.
Three hits came off the Razorbacks’ bats, six others were absorbed by their bodies.
Throw in seven bases on balls, and it added up to an 8-3 victory for the No. 24 Razorbacks, who completed a three-game sweep of Appalachian State before an announced crowd of 5,072.
“I think you see a little bit different style team than maybe last year as far as our approach at the plate,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “I just think we grind out our at-bats a lot better.”
Van Horn said the Razorbacks have put more emphasis on getting hit by pitches this season under the direction of new batting coach Tony Vitello.
Arkansas batters were hit by 12 pitches in three games against Appalachian State after ranking 258th nationally among 296 NCAA Division I teams last season, when the Razorbacks were hit by pitches 36 times in 61 games.
“It’s a philosophy,” Van Horn said. “We don’t want you to get hurt, but you need to stand in there and take it, especially when you’re behind in the count, or we’re behind in the game and we need runners.
“It’s about being able to touch home plate. It’s not about your batting average. It’s about scoring runs and on-base percentage.”
Arkansas junior left fielder Joe Serrano said if the Razorbacks hadn’t emphasized getting hit by pitches in practice, they might not have won on Sunday.
“Instead of ducking out of the way of balls, wear them for the team,” Serrano said. “We have a little thing in the locker room going on, you get hit by a pitch you get a little surprise in your locker after the game.”
What kind of surprise?
“We’ll keep that in the team,” Serrano said with a smile. “It’s nothing bad. it’s just a little something for the guy.”
Freshman center fielder Andrew Benintendi, the Razorbacks’ leadoff batter, was hit by pitches four times in the first two games of the series, which the Razorbacks won 12-2 and 7-6.
Benintendi was 0 for 2 on Sunday, but had two runs batted in and scored a run while walking twice and having a sacrifice bunt. In three games he’s 0 for 6, but has scored 4 runs and walked 4 times. He hit into a line-drive double play on Sunday.
“Sometimes the hits aren’t falling and you’ve to do anything to get on base,” Benintendi said. “My job as leadoff man is to get on base and see pitches.
“I’ll take what I have done. I’m sure some of the guys will, too, getting on base and not getting hits. I think the hits will come in time.”
Arkansas overcame home runs by Appalachian State’s Dillion Dobson and Michael Pierson that kept the scored tied 3-3 going into the bottom of the seventh inning, when the Razorbacks went ahead 5-3 on Serrano’s RBI double and Brian Anderson’s RBI single after Clark Egan started the rally by reaching on a hit by pitch.
The Razorbacks added three runs in the eighth with two more hit by pitches, two walks, a sacrifice bunt and Benintendi’s RBI groundout. They scored two runs in the second inning with two walks and two hit batsmen Serrano’s RBI sacrifice fly. Tyler Spoon had an RBI double in the first inning after Benintendi drew a leadoff walk.
Freshman Zach Jackson pitched three shutout innings for the Razorbacks while junior Jacob Stone (1-0) got the victory pitching a scoreless seventh inning.
The Razorbacks’ ninth place hitter was hit four consecutive times - Bobby Wernes twice and Egan and Bernal once each.
“It’s incredible,” Van Horn said. “I can never remember anybody in the same spot in the batting order - especially when it’s three different batters - getting hit four times.It’s just the way it is.”
Van Horn said he was pleased by an offense that produced 16 base runners.
“I’m going to call that a good day because we won,” he said. “Bad day if we lost. If you win, it’s good.
“You’ve got to win different ways and you might not see this again for 10 years, but it’s just the way it was today. You get three hits and score eight runs, we’ll take it.”UP NEXT ARKANSAS VS EASTERN ILLINOIS WHEN 3:05 Friday WHERE Baum Stadium, Fayetteville RECORDS Arkansas 3-0; Eastern Illinois 1-3 RADIO Razorbacks Sports Network statewide. Not all games carried by affiliates. Check local listings.
INTERNET www.arkansasrazorbacks.com PITCHING MATCHUP TBA SHORT HOPS Sunday’s victory was the 2,000th in Arkansas program history. The Razorbacks are 1,265-6 … Arkansas senior catcher Jake Wise, coming back from elbow and hernia surgery, started all three games vs Appalachian State … the Razorbacks swept their season-opening series for the fifth time since 2008 … Arkansas’ starting pitchers allowed seven hits while striking out 14 over 14 innings pitched … sophomore right fielder Tyler Spoon led the Razorbacks with five RBI during the series .. 14 players made their Arkansas debut over the weekend … actual attendance for the three-game Appalachian State series was 14,322. Paid attendance was 23,379.
THE WEEK AHEAD TODAY Off TUESDAY Off WEDNESDAY Off THURSDAY Off FRIDAY vs. Eastern Illinois 3:05 p.m.
SATURDAY vs. Eastern Illinois 1:05 p.m. SUNDAY vs. Eastern Illinois 1:05 p.m.
Sports, Pages 13 on 02/17/2014