COLLEGE BASEBALL:

Catcher a big hit for Hogs

By: AUSTIN CROCHETIERE SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE
Published: Sunday, March 9, 2014
Arkansas catcher Jake Wise tags out a Tulane base runner at home during the Razorbacks' 4-0 win Saturday at the Cal Baseball Classic in Berkeley, Calif.
Photo by Chris Daigle
Arkansas catcher Jake Wise tags out a Tulane base runner at home during the Razorbacks' 4-0 win Saturday at the Cal Baseball Classic in Berkeley, Calif.

BERKELEY, Calif. - Catcher Jake Wise entered Saturday working through one of the toughest slumps of his career.

The Razorbacks’ bats had gone quiet over their past three games, and Wise was a big part of that. The senior captain had managed only one hit in 23 at-bats this season heading into Saturday’s game against Tulane at the Cal Classic.

So, Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn came up with a solution.

Leading 1-0 in the top of the fifth and with Wise at the plate, Van Horn gave the hit-and-run signal. Third baseman Michael Bernal took off from first, prompting Tulane shortstop Stephen Alemais to cover second base. Wise found the hole between third and second with his second hit of the year.

Wise and Bernal eventually scored on a single by left fielder Joe Serrano, but more importantly Wise and the rest of the team’s offensive confidence had returned. Arkansas ended up banging out nine hits in its 4-0 victory at Evans Diamond.

“It is one of the easiest ways to get out of a slump,” Wise said. “It gets your mind off mechanics and allows you to just swing the bat. It was good to just come up with a hit.”

That was all pitchers Collin Poche, Zach Jackson and Jacob Stone needed as the three combined on a four hit shutout to end the Razorbacks’ three-game slide.

“Three losses in a row was beating down on us,” Jackson said. “This win was huge, because things are starting to go up again.”

The Razorbacks (8-3) got on the board in the second inning when shortstop Brett McAfee lined a ball to left-center field, bringing home junior Brian Anderson from second.

Poche almost gave up the 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth. In a confusing series of plays, the starter was called for two consecutive balks, moving Tulane’s Andrew Garner from first to third.

Van Horn had seen enough after another walk, pulling Poche in favor of freshman Zach Jackson.

Jackson fought his way out of a two-on, no-out scenario. Garner was thrown out at home on a double steal, and Jackson retired the next two batters on fly outs as Tulane (9-4) blew an opportunity to take control of the game.

“Poche gave us three good innings, but I think he just ran out of gas,” Jackson said. “It was a tough situation. As a freshman, I know it takes a lot for coach to put someone with not a lot of experience out there, but I personally loved it.”

The Razorbacks’ offense came alive again in the fifth when Serrano singled home Bernal and Wise to push the lead to 3-0.

Bernal, who went 1 for 3 with 2 runs, started another scoring inning in the top of the seventh with a single. Bernal eventually scored ona sacrifice fly by Serrano, his third RBI of the game, to extend the Razorbacks’ lead to 4-0.

Stone pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings for the save, but at the end of the day it was Wise who made the biggest difference.

“You have to give a lot of credit to Wise,” Serrano said. “He has been struggling. He got two hits, and that alone fired everybody up.”

Today’s game

ARKANSAS VS. CALIFORNIA

WHEN 3 p.m. Central (DH) WHERE Evans Diamond, Berkeley, Calif.

RECORDS Arkansas 8-3; California 9-3 RADIO RSP statewide radio network. Not all games will be carried by affiliates. Check local listings.

INTERNET arkansasrazorbacks.com PITCHING MATCHUP Arkansas: TBD. California: TBD

Sports, Pages 21 on 03/09/2014

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