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.
Razorbacks offense feeds off meat of the order
Arkansas first baseman Eric Fisher heads to third during the first inning against Grambling State Wednesday, March 19, 2014, at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas didn’t need any late-inning dramatics this time.
The Razorbacks (11-7) pounded out 12 hits and thumped Grambling State 8-0 on Wednesday, a day after the Tigers stranded the tying run at third base during a ninth-inning rally.
First baseman Eric Fisher went a career-best 4 for 4 with a pair of doubles, reached base in all five plate appearances and raised his average to .242 to lead Arkansas, which will take a three game winning streak into its weekend home series against Alabama.
“That’s what you want in midweek games, is to try to jump out on top early, try to get everyone some experience,” said Arkansas second baseman Brian Anderson, who went 2 for 3 with an RBI triple.
“That was nice,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “It was good to get a win and get ready for Alabama.”
Grambling (3-17) had seven hits but stranded nine runners and became the Razorbacks’ second shutout victim. Arkansas had also shut out Tulane 4-0 on March 8.
Fisher, batting in the No. 5 spot, entered the game hitting .190 while mired in a season-long slump. He hit a pair of line drives the opposite way, including his first-inning double, which drove in Tyler Spoon.
“When you’re hitting the ball the other way it means you’re waiting back and staying through it, and any time you can do that you’re going to hit the ball well,” Fisher said.
Freshman Alex Phillips (1-0) allowed two hits over three innings and picked up the victory as he was designated for a short start to open the game.
Arkansas’ hitters in the 2-5 spots accounted for most of the damage. Clark Eagan, Anderson, Tyler Spoon and Fisher combined to go 10 for 16 with 6 runs and 5 RBI.
“He’s got a great swing, and he can be a force for us in the middle of the lineup driving in runs,” Anderson said of Fisher. “Seeing him go the other way like he has been the last few games, it’s definitely a good sign.”
The Razorbacks were hit by pitches five times, including two with the bases loaded in the sixth off hard-throwing 5-5 left-hander David Allen, to bring their season total to 38, two more than they had in 2013.
Arkansas got to Grambling starter Brock Baker (0-3) early. After Andrew Benintendi walked to open the first inning, Spoon delivered a two out RBI single, then Fisher smacked an opposite-field double to the wall in left-center to make it 2-0.
Baker couldn’t get out of the third inning. Eagan walked to open the inning, then Anderson launched his triple off the wall in right-center field. Spoon brought in Anderson with a single, then Fisher doubled off the wall in right. Jake Wise’s sacrifice fly to center field made it 5-0.
Arkansas scored three more in the sixth to put away the game, with Anderson providing an RBI single and KJ Wilkerson and Wise being hit by pitches to force in runs.
A pair of Razorback freshmen made sterling defensive plays. Left fielder Benintendi laid out on a straight-ahead dive to rob Grambling catcher Roger Diaz of a hit on his line drive in the fourth. Third baseman Josh Alberius ended the game with a dive into the stands to catch a foul ball in the first row of seats.
Up next ALABAMA AT ARKANSAS WHEN 6:35 p.m. Friday WHERE Baum Stadium, Fayetteville RECORDS Alabama 14-6, 2-1 SEC; Arkansas 11-7, 1-2 SEC TICKETS Reserved $12. General admission $10.
SERIES Alabama leads 42-31.
RADIO RSP statewide radio network. Not all games will be carried by affiliates. Check local listings.
INTERNET www.arkansasrazorbacks.com and ESPN3 THE WEEK AHEAD TODAY off FRIDAY Alabama, 6:35 p.m.
SATURDAY Alabama, 2:05 p.m.
SUNDAY Alabama, 1:05 p.m.
MONDAY off TUESDAY Miss. Valley State, 6:35 p.m.
WEDNESDAY Miss. Valley State*, 6:35 p.m.
*Dickey-Stephens Park, North Little Rock
Sports, Pages 26 on 03/20/2014