Hog Calls:

Infection, injury actually work out well for Hogs

By: Nate Allen
Published: Saturday, June 23, 2018
Arkansas shortstop Jax Biggers bats during a College World Series game against Florida on Friday, June 22, 2018, in Omaha, Neb.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas shortstop Jax Biggers bats during a College World Series game against Florida on Friday, June 22, 2018, in Omaha, Neb.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Upon their archrivals Texas Longhorns, LSU Tigers and Florida Gators, even the most inhumane Arkansas fan likely wouldn't wish mononucleosis and a broken finger.

They would have wished both on their Razorbacks back in February had they known that would put Arkansas into the College World Series come June.

Minus shortstop Jax Biggers breaking his finger temporarily interrupting a season tailing from leadoff batter to ninth, and the mononucleosis temporarily sidelining ace closer Matt Cronin, Coach Dave Van Horn knows his Razorbacks could be variously dispersed for the summer instead of together in Omaha.

A .338 hitter last year netting him the leadoff spot at this season's outset, Biggers' slump to .276 prompted Van Horn to move former leadoff hitter Eric Cole back to leadoff shortly before Biggers' broken finger.

Cole hits .331 as an MVP candidate catalyst throughout the postseason.

Meanwhile Biggers' injury helped the Hogs for this year and next. Sophomore Jack Kenley, likely next year's Arkansas second baseman or shortstop with Washington Nationals drafted senior second baseman Carson Shaddy graduating and junior Biggers eighth-round drafted by the Texas Rangers, filled in admirably at short the seven games that Biggers missed from May 11 until May 25.

Upon his return during Arkansas' 8-2 second-round SEC Tournament victory over Florida, Biggers hits like a second-leadoff man from the 9-hole.

For the 10 postseason games he's played before Friday night, only in one has Biggers not at least drawn a walk, scored or knocked in a run. His spree, trying to do less because of his still taped finger which actually contributes to him doing more, Van Horn said, includes one 3 for 4 with a home run and two RBI game and a 2 for 3 and 2 for 4.

But for Cronin's mono, reliever Barrett Loseke, a postseason bull in the bullpen along with Cronin and Jake Reindl, doesn't turn around his up and down season on April 24 at Baum. Loseke threw 4 2-3 innings of hitless, shutout ball with 10 strikeouts against no walks to save Evan Lee's 5-1 victory over those same Texas Tech Raiders that Loseke's three hitless shutout innings of middle relief with five strikeouts and no walks, beat 7-4 in Arkansas' Wednesday winner's bracket game at Omaha. Loseke also threw a shutout 1 2-3 innings relieving winning starter Blaine Knight in Sunday's 11-5 first round CWS triumph over Texas.

"He was our freshest arm the first time we played Texas Tech," Van Horn recalled Thursday in Omaha. "That was the game that got him going. Ever since then he's been good for us. We probably wouldn't be here if he hadn't gotten it going."

Sports on 06/23/2018

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