Clay Henry is the publisher and executive editor of Hawgs Illustrated. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and its All-America Committee, voter for the Heisman Trophy and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Goodheart has "contacts" to connect for Hogs in SEC opener
Arkansas Missouri Friday, March 15, 2019, during the inning at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville. Visit nwadg.com/photos to see more photographs from the game.
FAYETTEVILLE When a hitter is in a tear, often they say, “I'm seeing the ball well right now.”
Matt Goodheart is just glad to see the ball period. Projected to be the Arkansas designated hitter in preseason, Goodheart entered SEC play hitting just .241.
After the eye doctor fitted Goodheart with new contacts on Thursday, the DH's good vision broke up a stellar pitching duel with just enough offense to lead No. 10 Arkansas past Missouri 2-0 on Friday night at Baum-Walker Stadium.
Goodheart complained of poor vision earlier in the week and thought it was time for an eye check-up. Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn didn't waste any time filling the request – or putting him in what had been a tough-luck spot in the lineup at designated hitter.
The starting UA designated hitters had hit just .208 in the first 16 games. Goodheart, batting in the sixth spot in the lineup, plated a run in the first with a bases-loaded walk. He legged out a gap double in the fourth, then came around to score on back-to-back sacrifice flies by Jack Kenley and Jacob Nesbit.
Missouri coach Steve Bieser challenged that Goodheart had left third early on Nesbit's liner to right field, but the replay – the first ruled from the league office in Birmingham in a new system – confirmed the Arkansas run.
Goodheart doubled twice in a 2-for-3 night and also got an RBI with the walk. No one else came close to plating a run in a Friday night SEC pitcher's duel.
Arkansas starting Isaiah Campbell walked the lead-off batter, then settled in to fan 11 while throwing 100 pitches in seven innings. Jacob Kostyshock, hitting 97 on the radar gun, fanned one in the eighth. Matt Cronin walked one and struck out three in the ninth to give the Hogs 15 on the night.
“Goodheart took a nice walk in the first, got a double his next time up and other than that, there was not a lot of action,” Van Horn said. “They didn't get into too many balls and we didn't either.
“It was a typical Friday night game in the SEC, about what I expected.”
All three Arkansas pitchers were in the mid 90s, but Campbell (4-0) was most proud of his three off-speed pitches, a cut fastball that was electric in the middle innings.
“I kind of found that in the fourth and I could command it in the (strike) zone and out of the zone,” Campbell said. “I walked the first batter and that's not how you want to start, but the next batter I threw a strike on the first pitch and I was OK.”
Campbell got out of the first with a strikeout of Mizzou star Kameron Misner and a caught stealing by catcher Casey Opitz.
“The pitch was called for high and outside fast ball, and that's where I put it,” Campbell said, noting the easiest of pitches for a catcher to handle on a steal attempt.
Goodheart played last year at San Jacinto, Texas, Community College, along with Mizzou starting pitcher Jacob Cantleberry. Van Horn said he knew that, but never asked his DH about a scouting report or whether they'd faced each other in scrimmages.
“I didn't ask him anything,” Van Horn said. “I told him to see ball, hit ball.”
Goodheart said he could, after the trip to get his vision checked.
“I just thought (earlier this week) that I needed an eye check-up,” Goodheart said. “I hadn't had my eyes checked since last year in Houston (at San Jacinto). I got new contacts. There's not too much to it, just newer contacts.”
Van Horn said they weren't just new, but with a little more corrective power.
“I think it was in a night game this week and he just told us he couldn't see it too well at night,” Van Horn said. “The increased the power of the lens and he's seeing it better. Yes, sir, he saw it tonight.”
Van Horn has rolled several through the DH spot, but has said all along that Goodheart was expected to take that spot.
“It was nice to see the DH that he was supposed to be, one of our better hitters in the fall,” Van Horn said of Goodheart's night.
The Hogs got what they expected from Campbell, Kostyshock and Cronin, too. The Tigers managed just two hits and had only five base runners, only one in scoring position.
Arkansas pitching has produced three shutouts in four games, giving up just one run in the other game. The Hogs have not allowed an extra base hit in the last four games.
“Isaiah was really good in the middle of the game, the fourth, fifth and sixth innings,” Van Horn said. “He started throwing a lot of strikes with command of the fast ball in and away. Then, he started getting the cutter and the change-up going.”
Van Horn was asked if Kostyshock's 97 mph fast balls were accurate on the scoreboard.
“I think so,” he said. “We had the gun re-calibrated and I think it sure looked like 97 from the dugout.”
Cronin was asked what Campbell and Kostyshock looked like from his vantage point.
“I saw a Friday night ace in Isaiah,” Cronin said. “He set the tone. With what he did at the end of last year, he's brought some confidence into this season. He's going to be a tough one for us every Friday night.”
The Hogs have allowed only one run in winning their last four games, three by shutouts. The shutout was the first in an SEC opener since 1992, their first year in the league. The Hogs won, 1-0, over Georgia at Athens in their first SEC game.
Cronin was in the bullpen heating up when Kostyshock was pitching, but was accurate in his description of what transpired.
“I loved it,” Cronin said. “What's better than 97 with sink, just filthy.”
Campbell was on the top rail of the dugout, loving it, too.
“That's electric stuff,” Campbell said. “He comes from three/quarters and gets people out. Then, you've got Cronin doing what he does, just electric fast ball after fast ball.”
Game two is set for 2 p.m. Saturday. There are more good arms set to pitch. Mizzou reset its weekend rotation to put ace T.J. Sikkema (2-0, 0.46 ERA against UA freshman Connor Noland (0-0, 4.32).
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