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.
Hogs hope this trip to West goes better
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn talks with Michael Bernal after he was thrown out at home plate during a game Saturday, March 1, 2014 at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas was one good day of baseball away from an unbeaten record and soaring confidence to kick off its first road trip.
Then came last Saturday’s weather-dictated doubleheader and a sweep at the hands of South Alabama, leaving the Razorbacks at 7-2 with lingering questions heading to their four-game set at the Cal Baseball Classic today in Berkeley, Calif.
The No. 24 Razorbacks will open the tournament at Evans Diamond at 4:30 p.m. against the University of San Francisco with left-hander Jalen Beeks (3-0, 0.51 ERA)scheduled to face senior right-hander Abe Bobb (1-1, 4.95).
The Razorbacks were averaging 8.7 runs per game during their 7-0 start, but they managed just four runs in their losses to the Jaguars.
“We’re looking to do well and bounce back from this past weekend,” said outfielder Tyler Spoon, who leads the team with 12 RBI.
“We had a little meeting about how to slow down the pitcher,” said outfielder Joe Serrano, whose batting average of .389 is tops among Arkansas’ regulars. “When you’re in the box, it’s your time. It’s not you on the pitcher’s time.”
The Razorbacks, who open SEC play next weekend at Florida, will try to avoid what happened the last time they played out West, when they went 0-4 at the Coca-Cola Classic in Surprise, Ariz., early last season.
“Everybody knows we have to come out with a little bit better mentality this year,” Beeks said. “In our opinion, it’s a little bit easier this year.We don’t have Arizona State, Gonzaga with their ace. But there are still good teams, and we just have to come out with a better mentality.”
Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said he would add left-hander Colin Poche (0-0, 1.93), a projected weekend starter who is building back up from elbow soreness, to the rotation in California. Junior right-hander Chris Oliver (1-1, 1.12) and sophomore right-hander Trey Killian (0-1, 13.50), who had a bad third inning Saturday in a 5-3 loss to South Alabama in his season debut, also are projected to make starts.
“I feel good,” Poche said Wednesday. “My elbow has bounced back really well, allowing me to play catch every day and keep my arm in shape.”
Van Horn said Killian’s pitch count should be up to 75 or more for his second start, while Poche’s projected count should be around 70.
“We’ve got to get him going,” Van Horn said. “We challenged him a little bit. His numbers, if you look at them on paper, they look OK, but realistically it hasn’t been up to what you’re going to need if you’re going to start in the SEC.”
Serrano said this weekend will be a good test away from the comforts of Baum Stadium.
“I think it’ll be important for our team to get fans who aren’t rooting for us,” Serrano said. “See how that affects hitters, how it affects people in the field. I’m hoping that after this trip we’re not going to be any Gator bait.”
Arkansas’ pitching is off to a good start with an earned run average of 2.00, tied for 14th in the nation with Mississippi State. The Razorbacks rank No. 74 in batting average (.285) and No. 152 in fielding percentage (.965).
The Razorbacks are scheduled to play Tulane (8-3) at 3:30 p.m Saturday and California (8-3) in a doubleheader Sunday, beginning at 3 p.m.
Tulane hasn’t announced its Saturday starter. California has announced left-handers Kyle Porter (1-0, 1.35) and Michael Theofanopoulos (1-2, 4.72) will start the Sunday games.
Today’s game ARKANSAS VS. SAN FRANCISCO
WHEN 4:30 p.m. Central WHERE Evans Diamond, Berkeley, Calif.
RECORDS Arkansas 7-2; San Francisco 5-6 RANKINGS Arkansas is No. 24 in the USA Today Coaches poll RADIO RSP statewide radio network. Not all games will be carried by affiliates. Check local listings.
INTERNET www.arkansasrazorbacks.com and ESPN3
PITCHING MATCHUP Arkansas: Jalen Beeks (LHP, 3-0, 0.51 ERA); San Francisco: Abe Bobb (RHP, 1-1, 4.95) SHORT HOPS Arkansas is tied for 11th nationally with 23 hit-by-pitches and its average of 2.55 per game is tied for sixth. … The Razorbacks were one of six undefeated teams in Division I before losing both games of a doubleheader to South Alabama last Saturday. … Joe Serrano is the only Razorback to reach base in all nine games. … Third baseman Michael Bernal’s .500 batting average (8 for 16) is tied for sixth nationally. … The only team to score on Cal during its three-game sweep at Auburn’s Tiger Classic (Feb. 21-23) was Arkansas-Pine Bluff, which lost 8-3 in the final game. The Bears are 6-0 in tournament play. … Arkansas scored six-plus runs in its first seven games for only the fourth time in school history (1960, 1996, 1997).
THE WEEK AHEAD TODAY vs. San Francisco*, 4:30 p.m.
SATURDAY vs. Tulane*, 3:30 p.m.
SUNDAY at California*, 3 p.m. (DH)
MONDAY Off TUESDAY Off WEDNESDAY Off THURSDAY Off
FRIDAY at Florida, 6 p.m.
*Cal Baseball Classic, Berkeley, Calif.
Sports, Pages 19 on 03/07/2014