Matt Jones is the online sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Northwest Arkansas Newspapers.
Beeks strong in series opening win
Arkansas junior starter Jalen Beeks delivers a pitch against Eastern Illinois during the second inning Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Dave Van Horn said earlier this week he would like Jalen Beeks in Arkansas' bullpen, but the junior left-hander is making the most of his time in the Razorbacks' most coveted pitching position.
Beeks threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings Friday in No. 25 Arkansas' 6-2 win over Eastern Illinois at Baum Stadium. Beeks, who has thrown 11 2/3 scoreless innings in a pair of series openers this season, struck out five batters in his second start and showed poise in a tight fifth inning.
"He is a pretty good pitcher," Van Horn said. "I like him at the beginning and the end. He was the big story of today, obviously. He gave us five strong innings. I think he kind of ran out of gas there in the sixth; kind of got up in there in the pitch count and we took him out."
Eastern Illinois' Frankie Perrone led off the fifth with a double and advanced to third base with one out. But Beeks threw out Perrone at home plate on a bunt back to the mound for the second out and got lead-off batter Mitch Gasbarro to ground out with the bases loaded to end the top of the inning.
"All I was trying to do in that fifth inning was throw strikes," Beeks said. "I could feel myself getting a little bit fatigued and usually that’s not the case. I’ve really never been fatigued, but I’m still getting into shape. Next time I’ll do better."
Arkansas (4-0) gave its starting pitcher all the runs he would need in the bottom of the second inning. Clark Eagan led off the inning with a walk and scored on a RBI double by Andrew Benintendi to give the Razorbacks the lead. Bobby Wernes scored later in the inning on a fielder's choice RBI by Brian Anderson.
Benintendi, a freshman, doubled twice for his first career hits. He scored on a Tyler Spoon RBI double for the first of three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning.
"I think I was a little to excited playing in front of a lot of people (last week)," said Benintendi, who didn't record a hit despite reaching base seven times in the opening series. "I think I was a little jumpy and that was the difference between today and last week. It’s good to get it over with."
Anderson scored on a wild pitch by relief pitcher Ben Kennedy and Spoon scored on a sacrifice fly by Eric Fisher to extend the Razorbacks' lead to 6-0. Fisher had scored in the third inning on a double steal, knocking the ball out of catcher Jacob Reese's glove on a feet first slide.
Arkansas chased Eastern Illinois starter Jake Johansmeier in the fifth inning. Johansmeier, the reigning Ohio Valley Conference pitcher of the week, threw 4 1/3 innings, allowing five earned runs on four hits for the Panthers (1-4).
"I don't think their guy had his best stuff," Van Horn said. "He was leaving that breaking ball up. But we didn't do a whole lot with him. We hit a couple or three balls hard but they were at people. Thank goodness we put together a couple or three innings because we didn't play real good."
The Razorbacks had only four hits in the game and none after the fifth inning. Arkansas was hit by three pitches Friday, bringing their season total to 15.
"Fifteen already after four games is surprising," Van Horn said. "You can't predict that. We're just doing a good job of holding our ground in there and getting on base."
Landon Simpson pitched 2 1/3 innings for the Razorbacks, allowing one hit and issuing one walk. Making his first career appearance, junior college transfer Lance Phillips gave up a two-run double to Trey Russell in the ninth inning to lose the shutout for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas and Eastern Illinois will play again Saturday at 1:05 p.m.