UA junior regaining confidence

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Friday, April 20, 2018
Arkansas pitcher Jake Reindl throws during a game against Auburn on Sunday, April 8, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
Arkansas pitcher Jake Reindl throws during a game against Auburn on Sunday, April 8, 2018, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — A string of shaky outings reached a low point for Arkansas junior pitcher Jake Reindl on March 27 at Memphis.

In his first career start, Reindl gave up a run in the first inning, then got knocked out in the third after allowing 6 hits, a walk and 4 earned runs with the Razorbacks trailing 5-2.

Arkansas rallied for an 8-7 victory to take Reindl off the hook, but the right-hander from Shiloh Christian in Springdale turned his season around after that.

Reindl has allowed 5 hits, 3 walks and just 1 run in his last 14 innings over 3 outings while striking out 19. Reindl was the winning pitcher after a seven-inning stint of a 5-4 victory over Auburn on March 8, and he posted a four-inning save in Tuesday’s 11-7 victory over Missouri State.

“Just a small mechanical tweak and building confidence in my pitches to help me build confidence in myself, just letting it all out there,” Reindl said Tuesday.

Reindl dropped his ERA from 6.43 to 3.67 over the last three outings.

“We’ve got to throw bullpens when guys get in a funk like that,” Arkansas pitching coach Wes Johnson said of Reindl’s early season struggles. “When you do that, it affects when they pitch again, because they still need to rest.”

Johnson said Reindl rediscovered his slider in a bullpen session prior to facing Louisiana-Monroe a week after the Memphis game. Reindl did not allow a run in three innings of a 10-9 victory over the Warhawks.

Reindl and Johnson both said he could be ready to throw tonight at Mississippi State after his 55-pitch scoreless stint on Tuesday.

“Jake bounces back really well,” Johnson said. “If we need him for an inning on Friday, he’ll be available. If not, he’ll be full go on Saturday.”

Series trends

Mississippi State leads the all-time series 53-43, including a 26-16 record in games played in Starkville, Miss. Arkansas has won seven of the last nine series, including a sweep last year by scores of 3-1, 5-4 and 6-1 at Baum Stadium in a conference opener. The teams split two games at the SEC Tournament, with Mississippi State winning 4-3 in the opener and Arkansas eliminating the Bulldogs 9-2 the following night.

Mississippi State won the first 10 games in the series with nine of them played in Mississippi, before Arkansas broke through 5-3 in Helena-West Helena on April 27, 1983. The Razorbacks lead 43-40 since joining the SEC in 1992.

Arkansas leads 5-3 in postseason meetings, though Mississippi State prevailed 5-4 in their only encounter at the College World Series on June 3, 1985.

The teams have traded regular season sweeps the last two years.

High seed

The website D1Baseball.com projected Arkansas as the national No. 2 seed behind Florida this week.

The site projected Fayetteville as one of six SEC host sites for the opening round of the NCAA Tournament along with Gainesville, Fla.; College Station, Texas; Lexington, Ky.; Nashville, Tenn.; and Oxford, Miss.

It also projected the Razorbacks to host Oklahoma, Creighton and Oral Roberts in that seeding order.

Tough luck

Mississippi State starter Konnor Pilkington has been dealt some tough losses, such as last week’s 2-1 setback in the series opener at Auburn in which the Bulldogs out-hit Auburn 5-4.

Pilkington will carry a 2-5 record with a 2.57 ERA into tonight’s start against Arkansas ace Blaine Knight.

“You’re speaking to a level of maturity that understands the things you can control and what you want to focus on,” Mississippi State interim coach Gary Henderson said when asked about the paltry run support for his ace. “For anybody who plays baseball, there’s short-term frustration, no question about it.”

Pilkington, a 6-3 junior, has allowed 47 hits and 9 walks in 56 innings for a strong 1.00 WHIP. Knight has a 1.10 WHIP, with 45 hits and 11 walks allowed in 50 2/3 innings.

The same two pitchers hooked up in last year’s SEC opener at Baum Stadium, and Knight emerged with a 3-1 victory. Knight allowed an earned run on three hits, with no walks and 11 strikeouts. Pilkington threw a complete-game 4-hitter, allowing 3 earned runs and 1 walk and striking out 13. Luke Bonfield’s two-run home run in the first drove in Chad Spanberger, who had singled, to give the Hogs the lead for good.

Bounce back

Sophomore Isaiah Campbell is scheduled to start Sunday’s series finale for the Razorbacks after a strong performance against South Carolina in his last outing.

Campbell (3-3) picked up the win by allowing 2 hits and 1 walk in 5 innings of a 3-0 Arkansas victory. The 6-4 right-hander dropped his ERA to 3.44 with the victory in the second game of a doubleheader.

“I think it was big for Isaiah mentally for him to go out and kind of pitch on a tough day to pitch,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. “It was cold and windy. He saw what [Kacey] Murphy did and that gave him some confidence that ‘Hey, if I can throw the ball down in the zone and move it around a little bit, I can get them out, too.’”

Murphy took a perfect game into the seventh before allowing a single in the first game of the doubleheader.

“Hopefully he’ll just keep getting better, because we know when his stuff is on he’s pretty good,” Van Horn said of Campbell. “I’m still hoping his better days are in front of him here. Maybe he can be a guy that can really pick us up in the second half.”

Campbell is scheduled to face 6-1 right-hander Jacob Billingsley (2-2, 4.08 ERA) in the 1 p.m. game on Sunday.

Return of Suggs

Former Razorback Colby Suggs is serving as a student assistant to Dave Van Horn and pitching coach Wes Johnson this season at the start of a coaching career.

Suggs, who holds the Razorbacks record with 13 saves in 2013, had Tommy John surgery while with the Miami Marlins in 2015, then began to have shoulder problems and was released the following year.

“At 26 years old after having surgery on my elbow and then my shoulder acting up, it’s tough to get back in the game after that,” Suggs said.

Suggs needs 25 more hours to graduate with a communications degree, and the Marlins are paying for his schooling, per the terms of his contract. He said he and his wife, Hannah, are happy to be back in Fayetteville.

“I basically help out with anything coach Johnson wants me to do, whether that’s helping him with the scouting reports, watching video and giving a little bit of input on what I might see from a hitter,” Suggs said. “Then I’m also down in the bullpen getting the guys ready to come into a game. I catch bullpens. I just help out in any way I can around here.”

Johnson said Suggs has been awesome.

“He’s been through the league,” Johnson said. “He knows what SEC bullpens are like. He knows how tough the environments are.”

Common ground

Arkansas and Mississippi State have only faced three common opponents for a total of seven games each against Auburn, Ole Miss and Memphis.

The Razorbacks have a 5-2 record against those teams, including a sweep of Auburn and an 8-7 mid-week victory over Memphis at AutoZone Park in Memphis.

The Bulldogs are 3-4 against those three teams, including a 6-1 loss to Memphis, also at AutoZone Park, on Wednesday.

Stat chat

Arkansas is No. 1 in the SEC and No. 11 nationally in batting average (.309), No. 5 in the SEC and No. 17 nationally in pitching (3.20 ERA) and No. 10 in the SEC and No. 63 nationally in fielding (.974).

Mississippi State is No. 11 in the SEC and No. 156 nationally in batting average (.264), No. 8 in the SEC and No. 51 nationally in pitching (3.66) and No. 11 in the SEC and No. 70 nationally in fielding (.974)

The Razorbacks are also No. 2 in the NCAA with 60 home runs, No. 6 in both slugging percentage (.509) and on-base percentage (.409) and No. 17 in strikeout to walk ratio (2.88).

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