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.
Arkansas getting clutch at-bats
Arkansas left fielder Joe Serrano connects for a 3-run double during the third inning against South Alabama Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Two outs? No problem for Arkansas.
The Razorbacks have been effective in 2-out at-bats this season. Arkansas scored eight of its 12 runs Friday with two outs in the inning.
KJ Wilkerson and Brett McAfee each had 2-out hits as the Razorbacks opened up a 4-0 lead in the first inning. Andrew Benintendi added a 2-out walk with the bases loaded and Joe Serrano followed with a 3-run double in the third inning.
"It's demoralizing if you're on the other end of it," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "You're one pitch from being out of the inning and the next thing you know you're down four. We did a good job at the plate."
Arkansas used 2-out hits to rally for a pair of wins over Eastern Illinois last week. The Razorbacks scored a combined nine runs with two outs in the eighth inning last Saturday and Sunday.
New Razorbacks hitting coach Tony Vitello has emphasized forgetting the count and number of outs when his batters step to the plate.
"Just touch home plate more than the other team does," Serrano said of Vitello's philosophy. "If the bases are loaded and you have a guy on third, you're just worried about him. If you get others in that's great. You just want to shrink down your goal to take off a little bit of the pressure.
"I feel like we're just having great at-bats. We're going up with the mindset of having a quality at-bat and hitting the ball hard."
Arkansas finished with 14 hits Friday. The Razorbacks have recorded double-digit hit totals in their last three games and five times this season.
Serrano had the best day, finishing the game 4-for-4 and drawing a walk. The junior drove in four runs and scored twice.
"He had a tremendous day," Van Horn said. "He's been around and has a lot of plate appearances here at Arkansas. The experience is definitely starting to pay off for him. When he's swinging at strikes he's tough to get out. He's a solid hitter and makes solid contact."