Hogs' 1 through 9 not easy to get out

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Thursday, April 13, 2017
Arkansas left fielder Luke Bonfield (center) is congratulated at the plate by teammates Friday, March 17, 2017, after hitting a 2-run home run scoring Chad Spanberger during the first inning against Mississippi State at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville. Visit nwadg.com/photos to see more photographs from the game.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas left fielder Luke Bonfield (center) is congratulated at the plate by teammates Friday, March 17, 2017, after hitting a 2-run home run scoring Chad Spanberger during the first inning against Mississippi State at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville. Visit nwadg.com/photos to see more photographs from the game.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Jake Arledge is hitting a robust .339 at the top of the Arkansas Razorbacks' batting order, and Jax Biggers is hitting .314 in the ninth spot.

In between them, regulars Luke Bonfield (.326), Grant Koch (.317) and Carson Shaddy (.307) are all hitting above .300 for No. 15 University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, which has bounced back from a last-place finish in the SEC West in 2016 to become a division co-leader heading into this week's series against Georgia.

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ARKANSAS BASEBALL

vs. Georgia

WHEN 6:30 p.m. today

WHERE Baum Stadium, Fayetteville

RECORDS Georgia 15-19, 4-8 SEC; Arkansas 26-8, 8-4

SERIES Arkansas leads 30-21

PITCHING MATCHUP Georgia LHP Andrew Gist (2-2, 3.38 ERA); Arkansas RHP Blaine Knight (5-1, 1.94)

RADIO Razorback Sports Network. Not all games will be carried by affiliates. Check local listings.

INTERNET SEC Network-Plus

SHORT HOPS

Arkansas pitcher Blaine Knight is on the midseason watch list for the Golden Spikes Award, which is given to the best player in college baseball. … Georgia’s last visit to Baum Stadium was in 2012, the five-year gap representing the longest between visits for any SEC East team since the Razorbacks joined the conference. … Arkansas RHP Trevor Stephan (4-2, 2.86 ERA) is slated to throw Saturday’s 6 p.m. game, likely against Georgia LHP Kevin Smith (1-4, 7.46 ERA). … The Razorbacks requested an exemption from the SEC to play Thursday-Saturday this week to avoid playing on Easter Sunday, and Georgia officials agreed to the move.

*TODAY Georgia, 6:30 p.m.

*FRIDAY Georgia, 6 p.m.

*SATURDAY Georgia, 2 p.m.

SUNDAY Off

MONDAY Off

TUESDAY Memphis 6:30 p.m. #WEDNESDAY Memphis, 6:30 p.m.

*SEC game # Dickey-Stephens Park, NLR

First pitch for tonight's game at Baum Stadium is 6:30, with Arkansas ace Blaine Knight (5-1, 1.94 ERA) on the hill against Georgia lefty Andrew Gist (2-2, 3.38).

The Razorbacks (26-8, 8-4 SEC), who have won three of their first four SEC series, have four reserves -- Alex Gosser (.375), Evan Lee (.345), Jordan McFarland (.322) and Hunter Wilson (.310) -- also hitting better than .300.

"One through nine is top hitters in the league," said first baseman Chad Spanberger, who is hitting .400 with 20 RBI over the last 12 games, mostly batting second, to raise his average to .291.

"Yeah, there's no easy spot in our lineup," Arledge said. "The top of the order is good, the middle of the order is good and the bottom of the order is really good too. You get no rest if you're a pitcher."

Gist, who won 3-0 against Missouri on Friday, will have to navigate a lineup that ranks fourth in the SEC with a .293 average, which is 18 percentage points better than Arkansas' .275 average from 2016 that ranked ninth in the league.

Coach Dave Van Horn felt the Razorbacks would have more pop and hit for average better throughout the order this season.

"We felt like that our lineup was going to be what I just call deeper and longer and extended," Van Horn said. "Basically it seems like the last couple of years once they get past the first five guys, maybe six, you know it's kind of like 'Let's hope we can get through these guys, maybe one of these guys can get on and we can get back to the top.'

"But I don't really feel that way with this lineup. I feel like every inning, no matter who's leading off or where we're at in the order, that we have a chance to score some runs. We have a chance to hit a double or maybe even a home run. We've got a little bit of sock."

The Razorbacks, tied for the SEC West lead with Auburn and Mississippi State, lead the SEC with 45 home runs through 34 games. Last year, Arkansas hit 49 home runs in 55 games.

The Hogs have 10 or more hits in 18 games, including a season-high 18 in Tuesday's 12-4 victory at Missouri State.

"It's incredible," said Bonfield, who has mostly been third in the order. "We've got Jax Biggers, who's hitting .300 as our nine-hole guy, so I think we've got a bunch of guys that can be at the top of any order in the SEC hitting all throughout our lineup."

Third baseman Jared Gates is hitting .333 batting seventh since getting off to an 0 for 6 start after coming back from a broken bone in his hand.

"We have a good lineup, one through nine," Gates said. "Bottom of the order really doesn't mean anything."

Van Horn said the pressure a deep lineup can put on opposing pitching staffs is valuable.

"They really don't get per se an inning off, you know, where if they go out and just throw it over the plate they're going to get through an inning," Van Horn said. "They've got to make some quality pitches to get us out."

Van Horn described Gist as a “crafty” senior who know’s what he’s doing.

“He’s got a good arm,” Van Horn said. “They’ve got good talent. They beat Georgia Tech last night 5-1. They can play with anybody. It’s just a matter of them putting it together, like everybody else. We just don’t want to be the team they get it together on.”

Sports on 04/13/2017

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