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.
Razorbacks alter schedule, rotation for Auburn series
Arkansas starter Hagen Smith delivers to the plate Friday, Feb. 24, 2023, during the fifth inning of the Razorbacks’ 13-2 win over Eastern Illinois at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — The start time and the starting rotation have been changed for Arkansas’ first SEC series against Auburn.
The sixth-ranked Razorbacks and the Tigers will have a first pitch Friday at 4 p.m. at Baum-Walker Stadium. The game was previously scheduled for 6:30 p.m., but moved due to cold temperatures forecast in Fayetteville.
According to the National Weather Service, there will be a high of 47 degrees and a low 27 degrees Friday. North winds that could gust to 25 mph will create lower a lower windchill.
Arkansas will start left-hander Hunter Hollan on Friday, five days after his 77-pitch start against Louisiana Tech. The move will allow the Razorbacks to pitch left-hander Hagen Smith in a variety of roles, coach Dave Van Horn said Thursday.
“Wild card, closer, long reliever, finisher — however you want to say it, a good pitcher in the bullpen,” Van Horn said of Smith, who he noted is not injured. “His numbers are great. He knows how to do it. He just wants to help the team win in any role and I appreciate that.”
Smith warmed up in the bullpen during the eighth inning but did not enter the game Tuesday when Arkansas defeated UNLV 13-7. Smith has been the team’s No. 1 starter and has allowed 3 runs in 19 1/3 innings.
Van Horn said Smith could start Sunday’s game against the Tigers if he does not pitch before then. Right-hander Will McEntire is scheduled to start Saturday’s game and the Razorbacks will not name a starter before the series for Sunday’s game.
The move comes as Arkansas battles injuries in its bullpen. Right-handers Jaxon Wiggins (torn UCL) and Koty Frank (torn lat) underwent season-ending surgery, and right-hander Brady Tygart (sprained UCL) is expected to be unavailable through at least mid-April.
“When you have some things happening with arms, sometimes you’ve got to make some changes,” Van Horn said. “We felt like that might be something we needed to do this weekend.”
Smith has experience as a relief pitcher. He moved to the bullpen late last season and recorded two saves, including during a 4-3 victory at North Carolina that gave the Razorbacks the first of two wins over the Tar Heels during an NCAA super regional.
Hollan (3-0) has a 2.18 ERA in 20 2/3 innings. McEntire (3-0, 3.48) is a reigning SEC pitcher of the week after he threw a 97-pitch complete game against Louisiana Tech last Saturday.
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Auburn, whose pitching staff has also been affected by injuries, is expected to start left-hander Tommy Vail (2-0, 0.63 ERA) on Friday and left-hander Zach Crotchfelt (0-0, 4.41 ERA) on Saturday.
Joseph Gonzalez, a sophomore right-hander who was expected to anchor the Tigers’ rotation, has not pitched since the first weekend of the season.
The Razorbacks (15-2) enter the series on a 10-game win streak.
Auburn (13-3-1) fell from the coaches poll this week following a series loss to Southeastern Louisiana. The Tigers rallied from a 7-run deficit to defeat Georgia Tech 12-11 in 12 innings at home Tuesday.
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