Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A two-time graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Biletnikoff Award.
Eagan's hot streak lifting Diamond Hogs
Arkansas designated hitter Clark Eagan heads to first after hitting a solo home run against Texas A&M during the third inning Friday, May 9, 2014, at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE When Blake Baxendale went out of Arkansas' lineup with a hamstring injury, the Razorbacks' inconsistent offense lost its hottest hitter.
But fast forward two weekends and Arkansas' man in the designated hitter position is still making things tough on opposing pitching. Freshman Clark Eagan has been on a tear since he was inserted into the starting lineup May 4, batting .600 with 6 runs scored, 5 RBIs, 5 walks and 2 home runs.
The Razorbacks are 4-1 since, averaging 7 runs per game.
"As a leadoff guy, you just want to get on base as much as possible," Eagan said. "My approach recently has been, 'Keep it easy, keep it short, put my foot down and hit it hard.' It's been working."
Eagan's best game at the plate came Thursday in the Razorbacks' 9-4 win over Missouri. He reached base in all five of his at-bats, recording three hits and two walks. Eagan's two-run home run in the top of the seventh inning gave Arkansas the lead for good, breaking a 2-2 tie.
"I just felt like the momentum kept going from there and we scored the last three innings," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "…He brings a lot of speed to our lineup and he's a threat to lay down a bunt."
Eagan, a Wisconsin native, also had a pivotal at-bat in the top of the ninth inning with the Razorbacks leading 5-2. Eagan fouled off six pitches - including four straight with a 3-2 count - before working a walk to give Arkansas its first base runner of the inning.
"That was a great at-bat," Van Horn said.
Joe Serrano recorded a bunt single and Andrew Benintendi walked in the next two at-bats to load the bases. Brian Anderson followed with his second home run of the game - a grand slam to give the Razorbacks some breathing room with a 9-2 lead.
"I think it all started with Clark setting the table for us," said Anderson, who hit two home runs and a triple Thursday. "He really got us going.
"He's seeing the ball really well and not swinging at pitches outside the zone. We they do throw it over the plate he's making them pay. He got the big home run and had the walk at the end."
Baxendale had a considerable limp in practice Tuesday and his status for the rest of the season is unknown. If he does make it back into the lineup this year, Arkansas will have options at DH, including the option to platoon the right-handed Baxendale and left-handed Eagan.
For now, Eagan is making the most of what could have been a devastating injury to the Razorbacks' lineup and has helped put Arkansas back in the NCAA regionals conversation.
"At this level you've just got to have people step up," Eagan said. "Whenever someone goes down, we've got to have a deep bench and send someone else in there to pick up the slack."