COLLEGE BASEBALL:

Benintendi swings into action for UA

By: RICK HARVEY SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE
Published: Saturday, February 22, 2014
Arkansas center fielder Andrew Benintendi connects with his first hit as a Razorback, an RBI double during the third inning against Eastern Illinois Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas center fielder Andrew Benintendi connects with his first hit as a Razorback, an RBI double during the third inning against Eastern Illinois Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE - Andrew Benintendi didn’t need any free passes Friday afternoon.

The highly touted freshman from Cincinnati, who reached base seven times last weekend, all on walks or after being hit by a pitch, had two of Arkansas’ four hits Friday as the Razorbacks beat Eastern Illinois 6-2 in front of 2,844 at Baum Stadium.

After flying out on a hard hit ball in his first at-bat, Benintendi doubled to left-center in the third and fifth innings and had an RBI after going 0 for 6 with 4 runs scored and 2 RBI in the season-opening series sweep against Appalachian State.

“I think I was a little too excited, playing in front of a lot of people,” Arkansas’ lead off hitter said of the opening series. “I think I was a little jumpy [last weekend] and that was the difference. It feels good to finally get that over with.”

Benintendi’s day at the plate was a welcome sight, Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said.

“Obviously we want him to score runs for us,” Van Horn said. “He scored a run and got an inning going here and there. He did what we know he can do, and that’s drive the ball from alley to alley.”

Benintendi helped Arkansas (4-0) generate enough offense Friday to back another solid start by junior left hander Jalen Beeks (2-0). The Prairie Grove native pitched 52/3 scoreless innings, allowing 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 5. He was relieved with two outs in the sixth inning after throwing 83 pitches and showing signs of fatigue.

“He gave us five strong innings,” Van Horn said of Beeks, who has thrown 11 2/3 scoreless innings through his first two starts. “I think he kind of ran out of gas in the sixth and kind of got up there in the pitch count.”

Beeks also made a key play defensively.

With Arkansas leading 3-0 in the fifth, Eastern Illinois (1-4) had runners on first and third with one out when Jacob Reese bunted a soft liner to Beeks’ left side. Beeks swiftly fielded the ball and threw home just in time for Arkansas catcher Jake Wise to tag Frankie Perrone for the second out. Beeks forced a ground out to batters later to end the threat.

“Luckily the guy bunted to my left side, so it was a lot easier to throw it home,” Beeks said. “If he would have bunted to the right side, then I wouldn’t have had a shot on him. I got lucky.”

The Razorbacks scored all their runs off Eastern Illinois starter Jake Johansmeier (1-1), the Ohio Valley Conference’s pitcher of the week who threw a six-inning three-hitter in a victory over Louisiana-Lafayette last week.

Johansmeier retired the Razorbacks in order in their first two at-bats, but Arkansas got things going in the third. Clark Eagan singled and scored on Benintendi’s first double, and Bobby Wernes was hit by a pitch and scored when Brian Anderson reached on a fielder’s choice.

Arkansas scored an unearned run in the third and added three in a two-hit fifth inning, including doubles by Benintendi and Tyler Spoon.

Anderson was hit by a pitch in the fifth, the Razorbacks’ third hit batsman of the game and 15th through the first four games this season. Arkansas had 36 hit batters all of 2013.

“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. It’s kind of a team thing. It’s up to them.”

Landon Simpson worked 21/3 scoreless innings before junior Lance Phillips took over in the ninth, giving up Eastern Illinois’ two runs on two hits.

“Thank goodness we put together a couple or three innings because we didn’t play real good,” Van Horn said. “We hit three or four balls on the nose, but I was disappointed we didn’t hit better, and they are, too.

“Bottom line, we won the game, but you’re not going to win too many games with four hits.”

Today’s game EASTERN ILLINOIS VS. ARKANSAS WHEN 1:05 p.m.

WHERE Baum Stadium, Fayetteville RECORDS Eastern Illinois 1-4; Arkansas 4-0 RADIO RSP statewide radio network.

Not all games will be carried by affiliates.

Check local listings.

INTERNET www.arkansasrazorbacks.com and ESPN3 THE WEEK AHEAD TODAY vs. E. Illinois, 1:05 p.m.

SUNDAY vs. E. Illinois, 1:05 p.m.

MONDAY Off TUESDAY Off WEDNESDAY Off THURSDAY Off FRIDAY vs. South Alabama, 3:05 p.m.

Sports, Pages 19 on 02/22/2014

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