Hogs baseball team heads west for early test

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Arkansas Bucknell Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, during the inning at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas Bucknell Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, during the inning at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Thirty years and one day after their last victory over Arizona, the No. 6 Arkansas Razorbacks will try to beat the Wildcats again in a marquee game tonight in San Diego.

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville (3-0) will face Arizona (3-0) tonight at 9 on the campus of San Diego State as a prelude to this weekend's Tony Gwynn Legacy tournament.

"I want us just to pick it up where we left off here, and that's swinging the bats and throwing strikes and giving ourselves a chance to win and try to win a lot of innings," Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said.

Arizona Coach Jay Johnson lavished praise on the Razorbacks, who opened the season with a sweep of Bucknell by the combined score of 49-7.

"This is a great early season matchup and opportunity for our team," Johnson told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette through a spokesman. "We have a ton of respect for them. Coach Van Horn is one of the best coaches in the country, and their team this year is one of the most talented teams I have seen in my time as a Division I coach. They are a legitimate national championship contender."

Arizona, a College World Series participant each of the past two years, opened with a sweep of Bryant last weekend.

The Wildcats have a 4-2 record against the Razorbacks, including a 3-0 victory over Blaine Knight last year in Frisco, Texas, and a 7-2 triumph at the 2004 College World Series.

Arkansas won the first meeting, 10-3 at the College World Series in 1979, then added a 7-2 victory on Feb. 20, 1988, to salvage the last of a three-game set in Tucson, Ariz.

This year's Razorbacks are trying to keep the mojo rolling after stampeding past Bucknell with a .398 batting average, 8 home runs and a 1.67 ERA.

"That's a test as soon as we get there," Arkansas catcher Grant Koch said. "We know they're a great team, and we're going to be prepared."

Left-hander Kacey Murphy (5-1, 3.65 ERA in 2017) will make his season debut for the Razorbacks. Koch said Murphy threw a "great" bullpen Sunday in his last significant warmup.

Today’s game

Arkansas vs. Arizona

WHEN 9 p.m. Central

WHERE San Diego State University, San Diego

RECORDS Arkansas 3-0; Arizona 3-0

SERIES RECORD Arizona leads 4-2

LAST MEETING Arizona 3-0 on March 3

STARTING PITCHERS Arkansas LHP Kacey Murphy (5-1, 3.65 ERA in 2017); Arizona TBA

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

TV Cox Sports TV

SHORT HOPS Arkansas would open 4-0 for the third consecutive year with a victory. … Jay Johnson, hired in 2015, is the first Arizona coach to lead the team to College World Series appearances in his first two seasons. … In 2017, Arizona led the Pac-12 in hitting (.308), was seventh in pitching (4.36 ERA) and was ninth in fielding (.968). … The Wildcats posted their fifth season-opening series sweep since 2011 with last week’s 3-0 showing against Bryant.

THE WEEK AHEAD

TODAY Arizona*, 9 p.m.

THURSDAY Off

FRIDAY Cal Poly#, 3 p.m.

SATURDAY at San Diego State#, 8 p.m.

SUNDAY at San Diego#, noon

MONDAY Off

TUESDAY Off

*San Diego #Tony Gwynn Legacy, San Diego

"I've got full confidence in Kacey," Koch said. "I feel like he's looking better every week. He's getting back in form, which is great."

Van Horn said Murphy had experienced back tightness earlier this winter but has looked good in advance of a left-handed dominant lineup for the Wildcats. Arizona had not named its starter as of Tuesday evening.

Arkansas boasts seven regulars hitting .300 or better, led by outfielders Heston Kjerstad (.667, 2 2B, 3 RBI), Eric Cole (.600, 1 HR, 2 RBI) and Dominic Fletcher (.308, 1 HR, 5 RBI), and infielders Carson Shaddy (.571, 2 HR, 9 RBI), Jared Gates (.500, 1 HR, 5 RBI) and Jax Biggers (.444, 4 runs).

Arizona swept Bryant by the scores of 4-0, 5-1 and 10-1 last weekend in Tucson, Ariz. The Wildcats are led by Cal Stevenson (.500, 2 triples, 3 RBI), Cameron Cannon (.400, 4 RBI), Nick Quintana (.364) and Cesar Salazar (.286, 3 RBI).

No. 5 Arizona dealt Knight his first loss last year and his only loss until a 6-2 setback at No. 10 Auburn on April 21. Knight allowed 5 hits and struck out 10 in his 6 innings.

Arizona left-hander JC Cloney worked 72/3 innings in that game and limited the Hogs to three singles.

Sports on 02/21/2018

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