Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Diamond Hogs have best offensive day of preseason
Arkansas assistant coach Nate Thompson cheers Saturday, May 22, 2021, as first baseman Brady Slavens' two-run home run leaves the park during the fourth inning of the Razorbacks' 9-3 win over Florida at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — After a week of practicing inside, Arkansas’ baseball team was able to get back on the field at Baum-Walker Stadium on Sunday.
A sunny sky and temperature near 70 degrees was a welcome sight after the deep freeze that shut down the campus for most of the previous week and caused the Razorbacks to modify their weekend practice schedule. Arkansas scrimmaged on its indoor infield inside the Fowler Center on Friday before taking off Saturday.
Left-handed pitchers Hunter Hollan (3 1/3 scoreless innings) and Hagen Smith (2 2/3 scoreless innings) were strong Friday, but it was Arkansas’ bats that were the story Sunday. The Gray team — a lineup consisting of probable position starters — won 13-2 behind 14 hits in 6 innings at the plate.
Eight of the runs came on two-out hits.
The 2 through 5 hitters in the Gray lineup — Peyton Stovall, Caleb Cali, Brady Slavens and Jared Wegner — each had multiple hits and combined to go 10 for 15 with 8 runs and 8 RBI.
Cali hit a three-run home run off the batter’s eye in center field against Red team left-handed starter Zack Morris in the first inning, and Slavens added a three-run home run to the video scoreboard in right-center field against freshman left-hander Parker Coil in the second.
Wegner followed Slavens’ two-out homer with a solo home run to left-center field to give the Gray team an 8-0 lead in the second.
“I thought the approaches were really good across the board,” Arkansas hitting coach Nate Thompson said. “It was the best offensive day for us so far. There were hard hits, working counts, drawing some walks, not striking out a lot — pretty solid all the way around.”
The Gray team scored 11 of its runs against left-handers. Hollan had shut down the same lineup two days earlier.
“I don’t think it’s been terrible or great,” Thompson said of the lineup’s performance against left-handers this preseason. “Those (pitchers) are really good and they’ll chew up and spit out a lot of people. I’m looking forward to seeing us compete against more left-handed pitching when the time comes.”
Wegner said he likes the team’s approach against lefties.
“Something that’s unique about our lineup is we’re able to go left-right, left-right, and we alternate that,” Wegner said. “The left-handed hitters seem to be doing a really good job. They’re more likely to get a lot of sliders, but they seem to be able to handle it.
“I think we’re good when the pitchers are throwing from either side.”
More from WholeHogSports: Unofficial stats from Sunday's scrimmage
The top five hitters in the Razorbacks’ projected starting lineup have performed well in the team’s open scrimmages this preseason. Tavian Josenberger, a switch-hitting transfer center fielder from Kansas, went 1 for 3 with 2 walks, 2 runs and 1 RBI while leading off Sunday.
Stovall and Cali each had three hits. Cali led all hitters with 4 RBI after he singled to score Josenberger in the second inning.
Asked specifically about the middle of the order, Wegner called it strong.
“Cali is a heck of an at-bat,” said Wegner, who finished 2 for 3 with 3 runs and 1 RBI. “He puts a bat on the ball and hits it a long way. Brady definitely can smoke the baseball with the best I’ve ever seen.
“The middle of the lineup is pretty solid, I’d say. There’s a lot of hard contact.”
Morris, a team captain and one of the Razorbacks’ top relievers a year ago, struggled for the second consecutive outing while pitching against the top lineup. He allowed 5 runs on 4 hits and 3 walks, and struck out 2 in 1 2/3 innings.
Gray team starter Cody Adcock, a right-hander who began his career at Ole Miss before pitching last season at Crowder (Mo.) College, retired the final seven hitters he faced in a scoreless three-inning start. Adcock allowed a single and a walk in the first three at-bats of the scrimmage, but did not allow a base runner the rest of the way.
Every other pitcher who threw Sunday gave up at least one run. Pitchers got a long talk from pitching coach Matt Hobbs afterward.
Harold Coll, a shortstop transfer from San Jacinto (Texas) College, finished 2 for 3 and scored the Red team's only runs. He and Kendall Diggs accounted for four of their team’s five hits while batting atop the order.
Jayson Jones hit an RBI single to plate Coll following a lead-off single and stolen base in the fourth inning. Coll also homered in the sixth against right-handed reliever Jake Faherty.
Other notes from Sunday’s scrimmage:
• Red team right fielder Kendall Diggs appeared to make a great running catch near the corner during the final inning, but the umpire ruled Diggs did not complete the catch on a hard hit ball by Hudson Polk. It appeared Diggs caught the ball but dropped it on the transfer to his throwing hand.
• Brady Slavens moved to third base midway through the scrimmage and made strong defensive plays on back-to-back pitches in the fifth inning. Slavens made a good pick on a ball to his left and threw out Peyton Holt for the second out of the inning. One pitch later he charged a slow dribbler off the bat of Isaac Webb and made a strong throw to first base to end the inning.
• Gray team shortstop John Bolton robbed Mason Neville of a hit in the second inning when he dove to his left, jumped to his feet, spun and threw to first base.
• Polk, the Gray team catcher, threw out two base runners. He back picked freshman Jayson Jones at first base in the fourth inning when Neville failed to make contact on a bunt attempt. Polk threw out Diggs trying to steal third base in the sixth.
• Diggs was also out on the bases in the first inning when he singled to lead off, but was caught in a rundown after a pick-off throw by Cody Adcock.
• The Razorbacks will scrimmage again Monday at 2:40 p.m. at Baum-Walker Stadium. Starting pitchers are right-handers Brady Tygart and Will McEntire.
CORRECTION: Monday scrimmage details have been updated.
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