Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Serrano paces Hogs in Jaguars’ drubbing
Arkansas left fielder Joe Serrano heads to first after hitting a 3-run double during the third inning against South Alabama Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas and South Alabama had played just once previously in baseball before Friday’s game at Baum Stadium, but Jaguars Coach Mark Calvi knows the Razorbacks program well.
Calvi was South Carolina’s pitching coach for six seasons from 2005-2010, when the Razorbacks had a 9-5 edge over the Gamecocks.
Arkansas lost 10 players from last season’s team to the major league draft and is picked to finish fifth in the SEC West this season after opening at No. 1 nationally last year, but after the Razorbacks beat South Alabama 12-1, Calvi said they look like their old selves in Coach Dave Van Horn’s 12th season.
“The faces and names might change, but they’re going to play hard for Coach Van Horn. They’re going to play the game correctly,” Calvi said. “The pitchers are all going to have good stuff and throw strikes and compete their tails off.
“It really doesn’t matter which year you play Arkansas. My experience is that you’re going to get the same type team. They always have a good makeup, and they do the little things right.”
The 24th-ranked Razorbacks (7-0) had 12 hits, scored 8 of their first 9 runs after 2 outs, and held the Jaguars (3-5) to 4 hits without committing an error.
“They didn’t shock me at all,” Calvi said. “They’re pretty good right now, and they’re going to continue to get better and better.”
Arkansas junior left fielder Joe Serrano reached base 5 times as he went 4 for 4 with 3 doubles and 1 walk. He had four RBI, including a three run double in third inning when the Razorbacks scored five runs to extend the lead to 9-1.
The Razorbacks went ahead 4-0 in the first inning with a two-run single by Krisjon Wilkerson and a two-run double by Brett McAfee.
“To extend the inning, that’s what crushes teams,” Serrano said of the eight two out runs the first three innings. “Not many people can recover. It just seemed like everybody in the lineup squared up the ball today.”
Serrano raised his batting average to .407.
“He had a tremendous day,” Van Horn said. “He’s been around, and he he’s gotten a lot of plate appearances here at Arkansas. I think the experience is definitely starting to pay off for him.
“When he’s going good and swinging at strikes, he’s tough to get out.”
Arkansas junior left-hander Jalen Beeks (3-0) allowed 1 run and 3 hits over 6 innings with 6 strikeouts and 3 walks. He has a 0.51 earned run average with 1 run allowed in 17 2/3 innings.
“He didn’t have his best command,” Van Horn said. “He had pretty good stuff, but he just wasn’t able to spot it or throw it where he wanted like normal.
“It might have had to do with the weather a little bit, gripping the ball. It’s cold, and it was the same for their pitcher, too. He’s a control pitcher and left some balls up, too, that I think he probably normally doesn’t.”
South Alabama starter Matt Bell (1-1) allowed 9 runs and 7 hits in 2 2/3 innings.
“Beeks had the same weather to deal with as Bell did, and their guy did a better job than our guy did pitching through the elements,” Calvi said of temperatures in the 30s. “Their hitters had the same elements to deal with, and they did a better job than our guys, bottom line.”
Calvi said he was impressed with Beeks’ change up.
“In the SEC, if you can throw a change up - especially to some of these right-handed hitters and with a ball that has late action like that when they’re geared up to swing - that’s a ground ball pitch and they make plays behind,” Calvi said.
Van Horn was told of Calvi’s high praise for the Razorbacks.
“We had a good day, and that’s the only day he’s seen us,” Van Horn said. “We faced one of his best pitchers and did a pretty good job.
“It’s a compliment and I appreciate it, but we’re still a work in progress. We still have a long way to go, but I really like what I saw from the team today”
Calvi said he expects Arkansas to be an SEC contender.
“There’s no doubt about that with the team I saw here today,” Calvi said. “They’re just getting used to playing with each other and you can see they’ve got talent and intensity and they compete hard.
“No one should ever, ever discredit that coaching staff and team.”
Today’s game ARKANSAS VS. SOUTH ALABAMA (DH) WHEN Game 1: noon. Game 2 will to follow 30 minutes after the end of Game 1. WHERE Baum Stadium, Fayetteville RECORDS Arkansas 7-0, South Alabama 3-5 RADIO Razorbacks Sports Network statewide. Not all games carried by affiliates. Check local listings.
INTERNET www.arkansasrazorbacks.com PITCHING MATCHUP South Alabama: Locke St. John (LHP 0-0, 2.70 ERA). Arkansas: Chris Oliver (RHP 1-0. 0.82 ERA)
Sports, Pages 21 on 03/01/2014