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.
Pitchers stand pat for Hogs
Arkansas pitcher Chris Oliver delivers the ball during game two of the series against Appalachian State on Saturday Feb. 15, 2014 at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas isn’t messing with its pitching rotation after one week.
The Razorbacks (3-0) will face Eastern Illinois (1-3) in a three-game series this weekend with the same group of starters they used last weekend in their season-opening, three-game sweep of Appalachian State.
Junior left-hander Jalen Beeks will get the call for today’s 3:05 p.m. game, with junior right-hander Chris Oliver taking the mound Saturday and freshman right-hander Alex Phillips pitching Sunday.
Arkansas vs. Eastern Illinois
WHEN 3:05 p.m.
WHERE Baum Stadium, Fayetteville
RECORDS Eastern Illinois 1-3; Arkansas 3-0
RANKINGS Arkansas is No. 25 in the Baseball America poll
RADIO RSP statewide radio network. Not all games will be carried by affiliates. Check local listings.
INTERNET arkansasrazorbacks.com and ESPN3
PITCHING MATCHUP Eastern Illinois: Jake Johansmeier (RHP, 1-0, 1.50 ERA); Arkansas: Jalen Beeks (LHP, 1-0, 0.00) SHORT HOPS Arkansas ranks sixth in SEC hitting (.297), 11th in pitching (2.67 ERA) and 13th in fielding (.944). NCAA stats will not be tabulated until March 3. … Eastern Illinois is tied for seventh in Ohio Valley Conference hitting (.233), seventh in pitching (5.73 ERA) and sixth in fielding (.962). … Arkansas second baseman Brian Anderson is tied for fifth in SEC batting (.500) and designated hitter Krisjon Wilkerson is 14th (.455). … The Panthers won their opener at No. 14 Louisiana-Lafayette 5-1 behind Johansmeier’s three-hitter through six innings. Johansmeier is the reigning conference pitcher of the week.
The three combined for 14 strikeouts, 7 hits and 2 walks in 14 innings last weekend at Baum Stadium. Beeks didn’t allow a run on 3 hits in 6 innings, while Oliver gave up 1 earned run and 1 hit in 5 innings.
“The returning guys, Beeks and Oliver, went out there and gave us five and six innings, threw well and threw a minimum of pitches,” Arkansas pitching coach Dave Jorn said. “We didn’t have to burn a lot of guys out of the bullpen, which we’re a little short in right now.
“Phillips went out there, he threw the ball around the plate, he’s just not going to overpower people. He just needs to get the ball down and change speeds to be more effective.”
Beeks said he got away with a couple of hanging sliders in his first Arkansas start and is energized about today’s matchup against Jake Johansmeier, a 6-3 sophomore who held No. 14 Louisiana-Lafayette to one run on three hits in a 5-1 victory.
“It’ll be the first real test for me this season since my offense did so great on Friday,” Beeks said. “I’ve read his stats. I’ve watched a little bit of film. He’s a very good pitcher.”
Eastern Illinois Coach Jim Schmitz said Johansmeier thrives in the series-opening spot.
“The key for him, hecan throw any pitch on any count,” Schmitz said. “He’s got a good fastball, which is down all the time, and he can throw a 2-0 change-up. He gets a lot of ground balls.”
Oliver said he had only a few bad pitches in his victory Saturday. He allowed an RBI double after some poor defense and hit two batters.
“I would say I did well,” he said. “I made one mistake and it got hit to the fence out there.”
The Razorbacks’ rotation is certain to undergo changes soon.
Left-hander Colin Poche, a projected weekend starter, is scheduled to be up to 30-plus pitches this weekend. Righthander Trey Killian, another projected starter, will be eligible to come off suspension after Sunday.
“We’re starting to get some guys where they can throw a few more pitches,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “We’re going to give Phillips another shot. I think he was nervous. He left the ball up and was pitching behind, and that’s not him.
“We’ll give him another shot, and if it goes good he’ll get more innings. If he doesn’t, we’ll go get him.”
Van Horn said Eastern Illinois’ Saturday starter, 6-7 right-hander Matt Borens (0-1, 1.50), throws up to 93 mph.
The Panthers’ Sunday starter, left-hander Christian Slazinink, was roughed up for four earned runs in four innings by the Ragin’ Cajuns.
“I like the fact we’re going to see some good pitching,” Van Horn said. “That’s what their coach is all about.”
Schmitz knows the Razorbacks will try to put pressure on his team by getting on base any way they can.
Arkansas batters were hit by pitches 12 times last weekend.
“We can’t give them freebies,” said Schmitz, whose club hadn’t been outside all spring until its victory over the Cajuns on Friday. “We can’t allow a lot of free bases.”
Sports, Pages 20 on 02/21/2014