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.
Razorback baseball report:
Hogs keep moving up in the polls
Arkansas shortstop Brett McAfee follows through at the plate during play against Eastern Illinois Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas’ hot start has moved the Razorbacks up in the various national rankings, including to No.
22 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association poll, heading into today’s series opener against South Alabama.
The Razorbacks (6-0) are also No. 24 in the Baseball America rankings and No. 27 in the Collegiate Baseball poll.
Arkansas is one of 11 undefeated Division I teams, joining the SEC’s South Carolina and Tennessee in that group. The Razorbacks swept Appalachian State and Eastern Illinois the first two weeks as part of their season-opening 10-game home stand.
Arkansas, which swept its first two weekend series for the first time since 2011, hosts South Alabama for a three-game set starting at 3:05 p.m. today at Baum Stadium.
Jags at a glance
South Alabama is scheduled to open the series with senior right-hander Matt Bell (1-0, 2.03 ERA), who threw eight innings of two-hit ball in the Jaguars’ 5-0 victory at New Orleans last Friday.
The Jaguars (3-4) were rained out of Wednesday’s game against Jacksonville State.
Junior left-hander Locke St. John (0-0, 2.70) is scheduled to start Saturday and Sunday’s starter is to be announced.
The Jaguars rank fourth in the Sun Belt in batting (.273), fifth in pitching (2.95 ERA) and second in fielding (.986).
Outfielder Joe Serrano said the Razorbacks have turned the page on their unbeaten start and are just focused on the South Alabama series.
“Each series is a battle.
You win enough battles, you win the war,” Serrano said. “We’re trying to get to postseason, hopefully host a regional. We feel like we have the squad to do it. If we keeping winning these battles, not dropping midweeks the way we did last year, I think we’ll get pretty far.”
The Razorbacks played their first five games in tolerable weather conditions before hitting a cold patch in Sunday’s 8-3 victory over Eastern Illinois. The weather prospects for this weekend include the possibility of freezing rain and snow Sunday.
“We’ve played in our fair share of cold games up here,” catcher Jake Wise said. “For the older guys it’s not a problem. We have a lot of freshmen that are from the north - Wisconsin, Ohio - so I don’t think it’s going to really bother us.
“We’ve kind of been playing in it this week. We had a bad fall with weather so we’ve been used to it.
You just have to get over it mentally.”
With sophomore Trey Killian joining the weekend rotation Sunday, freshman Alex Phillips has been penciled in to start Monday’s 4:05 p.m game against Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.
The Mastadons (2-5) play a three-game series at Arkansas-Little Rock this weekend before stopping in Fayetteville on their return to Fort Wayne, Ind.
Phillips (0-0, 3.60 ERA) did not pitch into the fourth inning of either of his two starts and has struggled with his control, allowing 4 hits, 4 walks and 2 earned runs in his 5 innings.
“We had a scrimmage [Tuesday] and he was 86, 88 miles an hour, which is three or four miles an hour harder than he’s thrown,” Coach Dave Van Horn said. “He threw real well. I think he’ll get the start on Monday.”
Arkansas sophomore Krisjon Wilkerson should be ready to return from the hamstring tweak he suffered early last week that kept him out of the Razorbacks’ three-game sweep of Eastern Illinois.
“I think he’s ready to go,” Coach Dave Van Horn said.
“We had a little scrimmage [Tuesday] and he hit the ball real well, so I think he’s ready to get back in the lineup. I think putting his bat in the lineup makes us a lot more physical.”
Wilkerson hit the Hogs’ first home run this season and is batting .455 with 9 RBI and an .818 slugging percentage.
The first three batters in the Arkansas’ order - Andrew Benintendi, Joe Serrano and Brian Anderson - are the only Razorbacks to reach base in all six games.
Benintendi, a left-handed hitting freshman, leads the club with a .538 on-base percentage. In addition to his .294 batting average, Benintendi has drawn 5 walks and has been hit by pitches 4 times.
Anderson leads the team with a .458 batting average, is tied with Tyler Spoon and Krisjon Wilkerson for the team lead with nine RBI, and has a .536 on-base percentage, while Serrano is hitting .304.
Sports, Pages 15 on 02/28/2014