Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A two-time 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.
Diamond Hogs keep same rotation
Arkansas pitcher Jalen Beeks fires a pitch during the second inning of the Razorbacks' season opener against Appalachian State Friday afternoon at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas will use the same starting pitching rotation this weekend against Eastern Illinois as it did in its opening series.
The Razorbacks will start left-hander Jalen Beeks on Friday, right-hander Chris Oliver on Saturday and right-hander Alex Phillips on Sunday. Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said all three will likely be on a higher pitch count than last weekend.
"We're starting to get some guys where they can throw a few more pitches," Van Horn said. "We're going to give Phillips (a freshman) another shot. He was nervous, left the ball up and was pitching behind, and that's not his game. He's usually all around the zone."
Beeks pitched six scoreless innings in last Friday's opener, while Oliver gave up one earned run in five innings Saturday. Phillips struggled Sunday, giving up a pair of solo home runs in three innings on the mound. The No. 25 Razorbacks swept the series.
Van Horn said the starting rotation will likely change before Southeastern Conference play begins next month. He pointed to the Razorbacks nearly blowing a four-run lead late in last Saturday's game as an example of why either Beeks or Oliver will need to be available in the bullpen.
"I love Beeks finishing games," Van Horn said. "You look at last Saturday's game and that's what we're going to be dealing with a lot.
"Jalen can start and he may start some games. If we can get three quality starters and it's not (Beeks and Oliver), that's going to help our team. If we need to go with the best available on Sunday to start, we can do that as well."
Trey Killian, a sophomore right-hander who was projected to be the team's Friday night starter in the preseason, won't be available again this weekend because of a NCAA compliance issue. Killian will be available for next weekend's series against South Alabama.
Van Horn said sophomore left-hander Colin Poche, another projected starter in the preseason, will pitch up to three innings either Saturday or Sunday out of the bullpen. Poche was limited to one inning of work last weekend after dealing with arm soreness.