Razorbacks baseball team finds comfort at home

By: Bob Holt
Published: Thursday, April 12, 2018
Arkansas outfielder Dominic Fletcher runs to third base during a game against Auburn on Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Arkansas outfielder Dominic Fletcher runs to third base during a game against Auburn on Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Baum Stadium has been a sweet home for the Arkansas Razorbacks since they opened the facility on April 13, 1996, by sweeping a doubleheader from Auburn 9-2 and 9-6.

The Razorbacks are 516-204 in Baum Stadium for a .717 winning percentage, including records of 25-5 in 1999, 31-8 in 2004 and 30-8 in 2017.

This season the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville is on pace for its highest winning percentage yet at the stadium.

The No. 3 Razorbacks (25-9, 8-4) are 19-2 at home (.905 winning percentage) going into a three-game series against South Carolina (19-14, 5-7) that starts at 6 tonight at Baum Stadium. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.

Arkansas has won its first six SEC home games -- sweeping No. 11 Kentucky and No. 23 Auburn -- for the first time since joining the conference in 1992.

The Razorbacks' record for consecutive home victories to start conference play is nine in 1978 when they swept Southwest Conferences series from Rice, TCU and Texas Tech at George Cole Field before losing to Texas A&M.

Texas A&M has since followed Arkansas to the SEC and will play at Baum Stadium on May 11-13.

"Well, we needed to win as many [at home] as we could, because we didn't take very good care of business on the road at Ole Miss and Florida," Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. "Obviously, those are two of the best teams in the country, and we had a chance to win those series in game three and we didn't do it."

Arkansas went 1-2 at No. 1 Florida and 1-2 at No. 4 Ole Miss, losing the series finale 5-4 to the Gators and 11-10 to the Rebels after splitting the first two games.

The Razorbacks' sweep of Auburn last weekend moved them into sole possession of first place in the SEC West.

"It starts with the fans," Arkansas senior second baseman Carson Shaddy said. "We've had big turnouts every week. They believe in us, and that's good for us and our mentality.

"Starting off hot is really great, sitting on top of the SEC standings. We just have to take care of business against South Carolina."

Arkansas has won its past 11 games at home and takes an overall six-game winning streak into the South Carolina series, including one-run victories over Louisiana-Monroe 10-9 in 10 innings, 2-1 and 5-4 over Auburn last weekend, and 7-6 over Gambling State on Tuesday night at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock.

The Razorbacks trailed in all of those victories.

"We have a lot of faith in our lineup," Arkansas sophomore center fielder Dominic Fletcher said. "Coach Van Horn told us earlier in the year that to be a good team, you need to win the one-run ballgames, and that's what we've been doing lately."

The Razorbacks beat Auburn on Sunday after trailing 4-0 going into the bottom of the fourth inning, then beat Grambling State after trailing 6-3 going into the bottom of the eighth.

"We just know that we're always in pretty much any game," said Arkansas sophomore closer Matt Cronin, who has seven saves. "With our bats we can get hot at any moment. No lead is really safe from us."

The Razorbacks were 3-5 in their first eight one-run games.

"We were having a little trouble winning the close ones earlier," Van Horn said. "I think the key to winning is playing a little better defense and finding a way to get that big hit, which we've done in league play a lot.

"That's the way this game works. You've got to take advantage of what other teams give you, and teams have made some mistakes against us, and we've done a good job of capitalizing on it."

Arkansas junior right-hander Blaine Knight (6-0, 1.93 ERA) will start tonight against South Carolina freshman right-hander Logan Chapman (2-0, 3.86 ERA).

"Blaine's pitched against the best in the league so far and he's given us a chance," Van Horn said. "You never know how it's going to go, but we probably couldn't have asked for a whole lot more."

The Razorbacks are 4-0 in SEC series openers started by Knight.

"He's got the right mentality," Shaddy said. "He's a guy that's going to come at you.

"No matter what his stuff is like that day, he's going to get you out."

South Carolina is 2-6 on the road this season, including 1-5 in SEC play. The Razorbacks hope to keep the Gamecocks struggling on the road.

"We've been one of the better home teams in the country," Van Horn said. "These guys have got to go to school, travel, lift weights, do homework,. A lot of things going on.

"It's a lot more comfortable to be at home than in a hotel, traveling, and on buses and planes. So if you can take care of your home field, it's definitely a big advantage."

Sports on 04/12/2018

Today’s game

NO. 3 ARKANSAS VS SOUTH CAROLINA

WHEN 6 p.m.

WHERE Baum Stadium, Fayetteville.

RECORDS Arkansas 25-9, 8-4 SEC; South Carolina 19-14, 5-7

SERIES Arkansas leads 37-32

STARTING PITCHERS South Carolina: RHP Logan Chapman (2-0, 3.86 ERA). Arkansas: RHP Blaine Knight (6-0, 1.93 ERA).

RADIO Razorback Sports Network

TELEVISION SEC Network

SHORT HOPS Friday night’s announced pitching matchup is junior left-hander Kacey Murphy (4-2, 2.31 ERA) for Arkansas and junior right-hander Adam Hill (3-3, 4.79 ERA) for South Carolina. … Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said the Razorbacks plan to start sophomore right-hander Isaiah Campbell (2-3, 4.03 ERA) on Saturday. South Carolina has announced sophomore right-hander Cody Morris (6-2, 4.04 ERA) as its Saturday night starter. … The Razorbacks have a .311 team batting average, led by Heston Kjerstad (.370), Carson Shaddy (.364), Eric Cole (.345) and Casey Martin (.324). … Arkansas closer Matt Cronin (2-0, 2.28 ERA, 7 saves) said he’ll be ready to go tonight after pitching the ninth inning against Grambling State in the Razorbacks’ 7-6 victory on Tuesday night in North Little Rock. … Arkansas is 18-10 against South Carolina in Fayetteville.

THE WEEK AHEAD

TODAY vs. South Carolina 6 p.m.

FRIDAY vs. South Carolina 6:30 p.m.

SATURDAY vs. South Carolina 2 p.m.

SUNDAY Off

MONDAY Off

TUESDAY vs. Missouri State 6:30 p.m.

WEDNESAY Off

THURSDAY Off

Discussion

Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.