UA baseball review:

Foundation solid for Hogs

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Monday, June 9, 2014
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn watches from the dugout during a SEC Tournament game Friday, May 23, 2014 at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Ala.
Photo by Michael Woods
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn watches from the dugout during a SEC Tournament game Friday, May 23, 2014 at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Ala.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn was very concerned about his pitching staff entering the 2014 season.

Those fears turned out to be unfounded.

The Razorbacks (40-25, 16-14 SEC) finished their season with a 2.63 earned run average, the program's second-best ERA ever, and made their 13th consecutive NCAA regional appearance.

Arkansas' season ended eight days ago after the a second loss to national No. 3 seed Virginia at the NCAA Charlottesville Regional.

The Hogs won 6 of 7 to end the SEC regular season and went 3-2 in the SEC Tournament to seize a No. 2 seed.

"What I really enjoyed about the season is we got better," Van Horn said at his season-ending news conference. "We kept getting better."

Arkansas hit .263 as a team to go along with its .263 ERA, a combination that produced 22 one-run games, and the Razorbacks improved in close games, finishing 10-12 after starting the season 1-6.

"If you had asked me in the fall if I thought we would win 40 games, I probably would have told you 'Yes,' but I might not have been telling you the truth to be honest with you," Van Horn said.

Brian Anderson hit .328 to lead the Razorbacks while ranking 14th in the SEC. He led the team with 51 RBI. Eric Fisher led Arkansas in home runs (9) and doubles (16).

Freshman Andrew Benintendi led the team in stolen bases (17), and junior Joe Serrano was 8 for 8 on stolen-base attempts.

The Razorbacks hit 28 home runs, their second-lowest total since 1994, and are expected to lose the players (Anderson, Fisher and senior catcher Jake Wise), who combined for 17 of those home runs.

Chris Oliver (9-4) led Arkansas in victories, while Jalen Beeks (6-4) had a 1.98 ERA that ranked third in the SEC. Michael Gunn (4-2, 0.74 ERA) and Jacob Stone (4-0, 0.94) combined for 11 saves and led the Hogs' strong bullpen.

Arkansas averaged 4.97 runs per game, to rank 7 of 14 in the SEC, but Van Horn said he was heartened by the improvement of young players like Benintendi and Clark Eagan, who are expected to be part of the Razorbacks' core of returning position players, along with outfielders Serrano and Tyler Spoon and infielders Michael Bernal, Brett McAfee and Bobby Wernes.

Van Horn said he expects Anderson (third round) and Fisher (17th round) to sign with the Miami Marlins. Van Horn also expects to lose a passel of drafted pitchers: Oliver (4th round, Phillies), Beeks (12th round, Red Sox) and Gunn (16th round, Red Sox), who spent most of the year as the closer and posted a program-best ERA.

But Stone will be a late-inning arm with which to build the relief staff around.

Arkansas' starting rotation next season should begin with Trey Killian (4-9, 2.30), who did not receive good run support. Pitchers like Zach Jackson (2-3, 2.53), Colin Poche (3-1, 3.00), Alex Phillips (3-0, 3.52) and signees Keaton McKinney, Sam Hentges and Jonah Patten could all factor in to the starting rotation.

Sports on 06/09/2014