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 Notebook: Frigid Fayetteville, McEntire-Auburn history
Arkansas center fielder Tavian Josenberger bats during a game against Auburn on Saturday, March 18, 2023, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — It is rare for Arkansas’ baseball team to play an SEC game as cold as the one it won Saturday.
The temperature was 38 degrees and northwest winds that gusted to 25 mph pushed the wind chill much lower during Arkansas’ 9-3 victory over Auburn at Baum-Walker Stadium. Temperatures at SEC ballparks are typically much warmer this time of year.
The sixth-ranked Razorbacks have won twice in unfavorable weather conditions this weekend. A forecast high of 43 degrees and another stiff northwest wind will make for more of the same Sunday as Arkansas goes for the series sweep.
“The reason we get to play is because the sun is out,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn told Razorback Sports Network before the game. “If it was a cloudy day, there’s no way we go out there.”
Perhaps the key to the series has been how well the Razorbacks’ pitchers have handled the elements. Auburn, one of the SEC’s best hitting teams during the nonconference, has been limited to five runs and 12 hits.
“Both days have been a little difficult commanding the ball like they normally do,” Van Horn said of pitchers.
Will McEntire, the Arkansas right-hander who pitched six innings and earned the victory Saturday, said gripping a baseball can become an issue in frigid weather.
“You see me doing this,” McEntire said while blowing into his hand. “I’m trying to warm up my hand, but I didn’t really have too much of a problem.”
Signs of the cold were all around Baum-Walker Stadium. A tailgate outside home plate had fire pits with open flames for fans to warm themselves; Auburn coach Butch Thompson wore camouflage cold gear under his heavy team jacket; Auburn starting pitcher Zach Crotchfelt pitched with a hoodie underneath his jersey; and Arkansas center fielder Tavian Josenberger covered his face with a gaiter.
“You realize it during pregame and stuff like that,” said Kendall Diggs, who doubled twice and had 4 RBI. “Once you get going, it’s just baseball. I don't really realize it once we're moving around.”
Friday’s forecast caused the teams to move the series opener ahead by 2 1/2 hours so they could avoid night-time temperatures. Hunter Hollan, the left-hander who pitched six innings during Friday’s 7-2 victory, said it was nice to pitch during the daytime, though he admitted he would have liked to have pitched under the lights.
“When you’re pitching, you don’t know how cold it is,” Hollan said. “I kept asking the coaches — they’re jogging up and down the stairs trying to get their blood flowing — I was like, ‘Is it cold?’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah, it’s real cold.’ But it didn’t bother me.”
Arkansas has been able to get through the first 18 innings of the series with four pitchers.
The Razorbacks followed the same formula Saturday that brought them success Friday — six-inning starts by Hollan and McEntire, followed by three-inning saves by Hagen Smith and Dylan Carter.
“Their lineup is tough and if we make some mistakes they can score fast,” Van Horn said. “So for us to be able to hold them down just a little bit with four guys, we still have some arms available for tomorrow.”
The Razorbacks will start right-hander Cody Adcock on Sunday. It will be Adcock’s first start since May 29, 2021, at the SEC Tournament when he pitched against Arkansas while playing for Ole Miss. Adcock pitched at Crowder (Mo.) College last year.
Van Horn said he thinks Smith might be able to be recycled out of the bullpen Sunday. Smith threw 44 pitches Friday.
“Our bullpen is going to be rested and ready to go tomorrow, and go for the sweep,” McEntire said.
McEntire vs. Auburn
Arkansas right-hander Will McEntire has starred in three career appearances against Auburn, including two starts.
McEntire made his SEC debut with a 3 1/3-inning relief appearance against the Tigers last season when the Razorbacks won 7-4 in a rubber game at Plainsman Park. He struck out nine Auburn batters during a seven-inning start at the College World Series last June.
On Saturday, McEntire allowed 3 runs, 5 hits and 2 walks, and struck out 6 over 6 innings.
His career line against Auburn: 16 1/3 innings, 4 runs, 11 hits, 3 walks, 19 strikeouts.
• Tavian Josenberger’s 358-foot line drive to left field was his third home run as a Razorback. He hit two home runs last season at Kansas.
• Arkansas right-hander Dylan Carter threw three scoreless innings Saturday. Since Feb. 25, Carter has allowed 2 runs, 12 hits and 3 walks, and struck out 13 in 16 1/3 innings of relief.
• The Razorbacks have won five consecutive series over Auburn dating to a series sweep in 2018. The Razorbacks won 2 of 3 regular-season games in 2019, 2021 and 2022, and also won last year’s matchup at the College World Series.
• Arkansas scored 3 two-out runs when Kendall Diggs doubled in the first inning of Saturday’s game. The Razorbacks are averaging 3.1 runs per game with two outs.
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