Kenley's cycle leads Game 1 blowout

By: Matt Jones
Published: Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Arkansas infielder Jack Kenley runs the bases after hitting a home run during a scrimmage Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas infielder Jack Kenley runs the bases after hitting a home run during a scrimmage Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, in Fayetteville.

— Arkansas infielder Jack Kenley went hitless in his first 20 at-bats as a freshman last season.

On Wednesday, the sophomore came away empty-handed in only 20 percent of his plate appearances.

Kenley went 4-for-5 with 5 RBI and hit for the cycle in the first game of the Razorbacks' Cardinal and Gray series at Baum Stadium. Kenley's Cardinal team won 13-0 to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.

"He just had a tremendous game," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "He's one of the most improved players on our team from when he walked in here a year ago, physically and confidence-wise....The bat is starting to come on and that's probably the biggest thing, that he's more confident at the plate.

"His offense last year was secondary to us; we just needed someone to come in and play good defense. You combo his defense with a guy swinging the bat as good as he did, he's going to be in the lineup."

Kenley hit a three-run home run as part of a five-run fifth inning that gave the Cardinal an 8-0 lead. He tripled in the seventh and doubled in the bottom of the eighth to complete the cycle, drawing an ovation from a crowd of roughly 200 people.

The left-handed hitting Kenley hit his home run off left-handed reliever Matt Cronin, who had entered the scrimmage one batter earlier. Kenley sent Cronin's first-pitch fastball near the visiting bullpen in right field.

"I'll tell you, Cronin gets me just about every time, so it was about time I got him once," Kenley said. "He just put a fastball out there and I didn't really get all of it, but I got enough of it and that's all that matters.

"Something was happening today. I'm going to go home and get me a lottery ticket because something's happening. Something was going my way."

Kenley's home run was the Cardinal's third of the scrimmage. Freshman outfielder Brady Disher hit an opposite-field three-run homer off Jackson Rutledge in the first inning, and Rutledge allowed a two-run home run by freshman catcher Casey Opitz before he was pulled in the fifth.

Rutledge, a freshman right-hander, allowed 6 earned runs on 7 hits in 4 1/3 innings.

"His stuff was good," Van Horn said. "He was throwing 93, 95 (mph) a lot, but he just made a couple of mistakes. Give the hitters credit; they did a pretty good job."

Kenley also made three sharp defensive plays from his position at shortstop, including a rangy play to his left in which he spun to throw out Heston Kjerstad by a step at first base. Kenley is in a position battle with freshmen Casey Martin and Easton Murrell at third base, but said he feels comfortable playing either position on the left side.

Sophomore Evan Lee earned the win for the Cardinal by allowing 3 hits and a walk, and striking out 4 in 6 shutout innings. Lee, a two-way player, also went 2-for-5 with an RBI as the designated hitter.

"Evan's breaking ball was good today; nasty and he was throwing it hard in the low 80s," Van Horn said. "He commanded most of his pitches and even threw in a good changeup."

The Razorbacks will play their second scrimmage of the series on Friday at 3 p.m. The scrimmages are open to the public free of charge.

Game 1 Box Score

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