Knight confident entering start against Longhorns

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Sunday, June 17, 2018
Blaine Knight, Arkansas pitcher, throws Saturday, June 16, 2018, during Arkansas practice at the Creighton University practice field in Omaha, Neb. Arkansas will play Texas Sunday at 1:00 p.m. in the first round of the NCAA Men's College World Series.
Photo by Ben Goff
Blaine Knight, Arkansas pitcher, throws Saturday, June 16, 2018, during Arkansas practice at the Creighton University practice field in Omaha, Neb. Arkansas will play Texas Sunday at 1:00 p.m. in the first round of the NCAA Men's College World Series.

Arkansas ace Blaine Knight (12-0, 2.84 ERA) is scheduled to square off against right-hander Nolan Kingham (7-4, 4.67) of Texas today at 1 p.m.

“I’m confident,” Knight said. “I’m going to make my pitches, they hit ‘em, and I’ve got a defense backing me up. I’ve got an offense that will put runs up. So I’m not really that worried about it.”

Texas second baseman Kody Clemens said Saturday morning the Longhorns would study Knight video more intensely that afternoon.

“I just know he can command every single one of his pitches,” Clemens said. “Yeah, he can put any pitch he wants anywhere. We know he’s going to be a strike thrower, and we’re going to put together good at-bats.”

Texas Coach David Pierce said he was 95 percent sure Kingham would start.

“We’re going to go over the scouting report today, but I just know they’re a good hitting team,” Kingham said on Saturday after the Longhorns’ practice at Creighton University.

Kingham said his game plan was “just pound the zone. Get early, weak contact and let my defense work.”

Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said Kingham has a good arm.

“He throws a good breaking ball,” Van Horn said. “When he’s on, he’s really good. He’s a typical right-hander. He’s going to come at you hard. His ball moves. He likes to throw that slider a little bit as well.”

Wind events

A hard wind was blowing in from right field up to 30 mph for Saturday’s opening games, and a similar weather pattern is expected today.

Asked about how the large dimensions at 24,000-seat TD Ameritrade Park might affect his home run hitting team, Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said, “It’s really about the wind. It doesn’t really matter the dimensions. We’ve played on fields that big. Our field in center is close to that. The alley in left is about the same.

“I mean, home runs have helped us win games but we’re not all about home runs. We’re about just playing good baseball.”

Smart Lee

Arkansas sophomore Evan Lee was awarded with the NCAA’s Elite 90 Award during opening festivities at the College World Series on Friday.

Lee, a recreation and sports management major, picked up the award for being the player with the highest grade-point average at the final site of one of the NCAA’s 90 championships. The infielder and pitcher from Bryant has a 4.0 GPA.

“I didn’t know they were having this award and that they were honoring academics,” Lee said. “I thought it was straight baseball.

“It happened and I was really excited. For our academic program, we’ve set record highs as a team for GPA and things like that, it just means a lot.”

3 for 3

Texas Tech is making its third appearance at the College World Series, all under Coach Tim Tadlock in 2014, 2016 and 2018, but Tadlock is not the only common denominator on the roster.

Senior pitcher Dylan Dusek was a freshman on the 2014 team and was on the roster but inactive due to injury in the Red Raiders’ second trip to Omaha. Dusek is 3-0 with a 2.03 ERA in 19 appearances covering 31 innings.

Assistant coaches J-Bob Thomas and Matt Gardner, in their sixth and fifth years, respectively, also have made all three trips, along with other staff members.

Wilson surfs

Arkansas utility infielder Hunter Wilson represented the Razorbacks in a group event during opening ceremonies by going on the stage and singing “I Love This Life,” along with players from the other participating teams late Friday.

“We did a little crowd surfing. It was a good time,” said Wilson, who celebrated his 23rd birthday Friday. “Growing up, I’ve been playing baseball a lot on my birthday. It can’t get any better than having it in Omaha.”

Coach Dave Van Horn noted that Wilson was the only player who knew all the lines to the song.

“It was amazing,” Van Horn said. “Very emotional for me to see him up on the stage. It was his birthday, so I told him I was definitely going to come and check curfew on the bus ride home.”

Ump struck

Third base umpire Barry Chambers was hit by a ground ball in foul territory by North Carolina’s Zack Gahagan after Chambers indicated the ball was fair as it crossed the bag during the Tar Heels’ five-run third inning.

The hit likely would have gone for a two-run double, as runners were on second and third base, but only one run scored, as the ball deflected quickly to third baseman Michael Gretler.

Heimlich focus

Oregon State pitcher Luke Heimlich, who threw the first pitch of the College World Series against North Carolina on Saturday, was the focus of the lead column in the Omaha World-Herald on the opening day of the series.

Heimlich pleaded guilty in 2012 to sexually abusing his 6-year-old niece when he was 15. The story broke last year in The Oregonian as the Beavers were preparing for super regionals. The pitcher went on leave and did not pitch the rest of the season.

Oregon State President Ed Ray said that was the right thing to do at the time, but he was OK with Heimlich pitching this season.

Heimlich has said he pleaded guilty to avoid the strife that would have ensued had the case proceeded, but the family of the child has maintained the abuse took place.

Heimlich, the two-time pitcher of the year in the Pac-12, carried a 16-1 record and 2.32 ERA into the CWS, but he was bounced in the third inning by North Carolina. He allowed 6 runs on 4 hits, 1 walk and 3 hit batsmen in 2 1/3 innings. Heimlich was not among the 1,204 players taken in the MLB Draft two weeks ago, despite having early round talent.3 for 3

Texas Tech is making its third appearance at the College World Series, all under Coach Tim Tadlock in 2014, 2016 and 2018, but Tadlock is not the only common denominator on the roster.

Senior pitcher Dylan Dusek was a freshman on the 2014 team and was on the roster but inactive due to injury in the Red Raiders’ second trip to Omaha. Dusek is 3-0 with a 2.03 ERA in 19 appearances covering 31 innings.

Assistant coaches J-Bob Thomas and Matt Gardner, in their sixth and fifth years, respectively, also have made all three trips, along with other staff members.

Hot Horns

Texas second baseman Kody Clemens’ slash line in the super regional of .625/.769/1.875 — which represents batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, respectively — was ridiculous, even for a three-game series. Clemens hit 3 home runs and a double, drew 5 walks and had 4 RBI as Texas won two of three against Tennessee Tech.

Around the horn

– Arkansas first baseman Jared Gates hit a home run during batting practice at Creighton University on Saturday off the scoreboard in right-center field, roughly 400 feet from home plate.

– Hunter Wilson is sporting a small gash on his nose, which came when he was hit by a line drive at practice Wednesday. “It was [Jax] Biggers’ fault. He was supposed to catch the line drive but he didn’t, and it hit off my glove and hit me in the face.”

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