This weekend saw the Hogs far from home, in the decidely anti-Ozarks of Berkeley California. This series was the Diamond Hogs' first "real" test of the season, and they didn't disappoint, taking 2 of 3 from those pot-smoking hippies (present company excluded, John).
Hogs fell behind 2-3 late in Game 1, until blowing the game open with a 5-run 8th inning, headlined Zack Cox's 2-RBI single and James McCann's 3-run homer. Starting pitcher Mike Bolsinger had a workman-like performance, pitching a career-high 7 innings, with 6 Ks and only 1 ER. However, his performance was marred by 2 ERRs. Unfortunately, errors would become all-too-common throughout the series. Hogs win 7-3, with DJ Baxendale notching his third save of the season.
Game 2 saw the return of 2009's "cardiac Hogs", with multiple clutch situations. Zack Cox got the Hogs on the board with a 2-RBI single in the 3rd, with 2 outs. Tim Carver kept the theme going by hitting 2 HRs, headlined by his 3 run shot in the 5th, again with 2 outs. Starting pitcher Drew Smyly got into a jam early in the third inning, but managed to pitch his way out, escaping with only 1 unearned run. Smyly ended the day with 7 Ks and no earned runs through 5 innings. The Razorback bullpen let the Bears get back into the game, with reliever TJ Forrest immediately giving up a 3-run homer in the 6th. Cal attempted a rally in the bottom of the 9th, but came up far short, scoring only 1 run. Hogs take the series with the 9-5 win, with Smyly moving to 1-0 on the season. For an excellent eye-witness account by John Expat, see here.
Starting centerfielder Brett Eibner took the mound for Game 3, requiring significant shuffling of both the outfield and infield to accomodate him. Eibner will remain in the rotation throughout the season, which is a testament to the teamwork and flexibility this club is capable of. Eibner had a good showing, with 5 Ks, 1 ER, and only 3 hits through 5 innings. Unfortuately, the bullpen slipped up again, with Geoffry Davenport immediately giving up a 3-run shot with no out in the 6th. Cal would add 2 more in the 7th to pad their lead. The Hogs fall 0-6, snapping their 7 game win streak, with Eibner picking up the L. It was the first time the Hogs have been shutout since April 10, 2009, against Vandy. 8 runners get stranded on base, many in scoring position.
Arkansas delivers on its first real test of the season: on the road, 2000 miles from home, against a relative powerhouse in the baseball-heavy state of California. The Razorback offense has proven to be potent, but their defense needs a little work. They just seemed unable to not give up runs. Of course, the best defense if a good offense, but without some defensive improvement, they'll be unable to win those games where the offense just isn't "clicking". Also, errors are a concern, with the Hogs committing 9 over the weekend.
This week, the Hogs return to Baum for a mid-week series against South Dakota State on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by a weekend series against Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Neither squad seems to be much to worry about, but should serve as a nice warm up for a HUGE series with #2 LSU down in Baton Rogue the following weekend. Hogs move up the rankings to #14, per Rivals, with a record of 8-2.