With all the turmoil and disappointment involving the basketball program, and roughly 5 months until we can even begin to tell if our sky-high expectations for Razorback football will be met, the Razorback faithful need nothing more than a team that's successful now. Guys, look no further than the Diamond Hogs. After last weekend's veritable shootout with the Kentucky Wildcats, the Hogs continued to impress this week, with a record-setting blowout of a hapless St. Louis team and yet another SEC sweep, this time on the road against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. For the SLU game, the Hogs set the record for most runs scored in a single inning (14), most total runs in a game (40), and just narrowly missed breaking the record for most Arkansas runs scored (33). The weekend wasn't without tragedy, though, as Jarrod McKinney was lost for the season with a torn ACL, and newly-minted Sunday starter Randall Fant was arrested Sunday night for public intoxication. Fant was also arrested over the summer for a DWI, and Coach Van Horn is not likely to be lenient.
For the St. Louis game, Fant gets the start. Many considered this game to be an "audition" for the Sunday spot in the rotation, as Mike Bolsinger is moved to the bullpen after last Friday's debacle. The Hogs would start fast and never look back in this game, scoring 32 runs... in 6 innings, including 11 runs in the 1st before the Billikens can even record an out. Their starting pitcher had an ERA hovering around 10, and it showed; he gave up 4 runs and 5 hits, while only facing 6 batters, before being pulled. His replacement didn't fare any better, as he gave up 5 more hits and 7 more runs before Brett Eibner finally flew out... for the 1st out of the inning. A walk and Travis Sample's 2-RBI double later, St. Louis makes another pitching change. Tim Carver would immediately hit an RBI double off the new pitcher, but James McCann would ground out and Thomas Hauskey would fly out to end the inning. All told, the Hogs would make it all the way through the lineup twice, en route to a school-record 14 runs in a single inning. The Billikens, though, aren't completely dejected, as Fant loads the bases twice in the top of the 2nd and lets an unearned run score, before getting out of the inning. Collin Kuhn leads off the bottom of the 2nd with a solo homer. Derrick Bleeker, who replaced Zack Cox in the lineup, gets plunked, and then Eiberner hits his own homer to put the Hogs up 17-1. The Diamond Hogs, smartly, would go to the bench for the 3rd and replace almost half the lineup. Fant was on a 50-pitch limit, and he's replace by Jordan Pratt: 1 hit, 1 unearned run, and 2 Ks in 2 innings. Bo Bigham knocks a solo shot in the 3rd. Then, after Bleeker and Matt Vinson get on base with singles, Monk Kreder drives Bleeker home with an RBI single. Two batters later, with the bases loaded, Carver hits an RBI double to score the Hogs' 21st run. SLU scores another run in the top of the 4th off an RBI triple, as Jarrod McKinney goes down hurt on the play. He's carted off the field with a knee injury, later confirmed to be the season-ending ACL. With 2 outs in the 4th, Vinson knocks a 3-run homer, to put the Hogs up 24-2. At this point, Arkansas has scored at least 3 runs in every inning. Garrett Methvin, who got lit up in his first appearance for the Hogs this year (and has an ERA of 20.25 to prove it), comes in to relieve Pratt for the 5th. Pratt's day ends with 2 hits, 1 ER, and 4 Ks in 2 innings. Unfortunately, Methvin hasn't improved, as he loads the bases on 3 consecutive singles and then walks a run in. He's pulled in favor of Zack Hall after only recording 1 out, and he isn't doing much better, as as he allows 2 more runs in on an RBI and a walk. A fielding error by the 3B let's 2 more score, as SLU gets the deficit to below 20. Because Methvin was responsible for most of the runners when Hall took over, Methvin's day ends with 3 hits, 4 ER, and 1K. Kyle Robinson scores on a wild pitch in the 5th, and Hauskey scores on a sac fly on the next play, to put the Hogs up 26-7. Christian Kowalchuk comes in for the 6th. Hall gets by with 1 hit, 1 unearned run, and 1 K in 0.2 innings. Robinson hits a bases-loaded RBI single in the 6th to bring the lead back to 20 runs. Hauskey and Kyle Atkins both follow suit to bring the score to 29-7. Bigham reaches on an error, to bring the Razorbacks to 30 runs on 29 hits. Bleeker decides to shake things up and hits a 2-RBI single, to give the Hogs the last of their 32 runs. Saint Louis just won't go away, notching and RBI single early in the 7th. And, after 3 outs in the top of the 7th, the oft-unused "10-run rule" comes into effect and the game's called. Hogs win 32-8, after 6 and 1/2 innings, with Randall Fant picking up the W.
With the usual Friday starter Bolsinger moved to the bullpen, Drew Smyly gets bumped up for the start in Game 1 of the Miss. St. series. After 3 scoreless innings on both sides, the Hogs finally get on the board in the 4th. After Zack Cox's triple, Andy Wilkins drives him home on a sac fly. That lead doesn't last, though, as the Bulldogs lead off the bottom of the inning with a solo homer to tie the game at 1. In the 6th, the Hogs go on the offensive again. Bo Bigham gets a single, Cox draws a walk, they both pull the double-steal to get in scoring position, and Brett Eibner brings them both home with a 2-RBI single. Monk Kreder follows that with a double that scores Eibner from 1st to put the Hogs up 4-1. The Bulldogs score against in the bottom of the inning, as they too score a runner from 1st on a basehit. They get greedy, though, and the batter is thrown out trying for a stand-up triple. Bigham adds an RBI groundout in the 7th, set up by James McCann's single and Collin Kuhn's double. Cox follows that up with a 2-run homer to push the lead to 5 runs. Mississippi St. tacks on another run in the bottom of the 7th. Mike Bolsinger, making his first appearance since being sent to the bullpen, comes in for the 8th. Smyly's day ends with 5 hits, 3 ERs, and 4 Ks in 7 innings. The MSU pitcher walks a run across in the top of the 9th, on 3 consecutive walks. The Hogs look to be in a position to get some major run support, but leave the bases loaded after Monk Kreder grounds into a DP to end the inning. Bolsinger makes short work of the bottom of the 9th to preserve the 8-3 Arkansas victory, with Smyly getting the win.
With Smyly taking the Friday pitching duties, Brett Eibner moves up in the rotation to take Game 2 on Saturday. After 4 innings of boring-boring-boring scoreless baseball, the Razorbacks strike first in the top of the 5th with Zack Cox's RBI single. MSU counters with 2 runs of their own off a double, an error, and single, also in the 5th. Jeremy Heatley comes in to relieve Eibner for the 6th. Eibner has nice day, allowing 7 hits, but only 2 runs (1 unearned), and fanned a career-high 10 batters in 5 innings. The Razorbacks take the lead back for good in the 7th. Collin Kuhn gets on with a HBP, and he's advanced to 2nd on a throwing error when Zack Cox reaches on a fielder's choice. Andy Wilkins then comes through with an RBI single. It's nice to see Andy back in the swing of things, especially since he was supposed to be unavailable for this series after hurting his hamstring last weekend. Eibner is then walked to load the bases, followed by Monk Kreder's 2-RBI single to put the Hogs up 4-2. The Bulldog pitching has been less than stellar after pulling their starter, as they then walk a run across to put the Hogs up by 3. That as much as the Hogs would get, though, as McCann hits into a DP to end the inning. Mississippi State hits a solo shot in the bottom of the 7th, to move within 2 runs. Heatley begins to struggle, so DJ Baxendale comes in to close things out. Heatley manages 3 hits, 1 ER, and 1 K through 1.2 innings. Kuhn answers with his own solo homer in the 8th, to bring the lead back to 3. Bo Bigham reaches on an error, Zack Cox singles up the middle, and MSU is making their 4th pitching change of the day. After their starter went 6 innings, the next 3 combined for 1. Wilkins flies out to advance the runners, and Eibner hits an RBI single to score Bigham. Kreder's sac fly scores Cox, to bring the Razorback lead to 8-3. The Bulldogs take a shot at a rally in the bottom of the 9th, as Baxendale allows a 2-run homer to bring the score to 8-5. Bax holds firm though, and seals the Razorback series victory with an 8-5 win. Heatley with the win, while Bax gets his 7th save of the season.
After slow starts in the first two games, the Razorbacks waste no time in Game 3, as the first 3 batters single, culminating with Zack Cox's 2-RBI single to put the Hogs up 2-0. New Sunday starter Randall Fant has an inauspicious beginning, walking the first 2 batters with 8 consecutive balls, and then letting a run across on a sac fly. Fant finally settles down, and gets out of the inning on a pick-off at 1st and a groundout. The offense continues in the 2nd, as an MSU error lets James McCann take 3rd, and he's then driven across by Collin Kuhn's single. Travis Sample adds an RBI sac fly to score Brett Eibner in the 3rd, to bring the score to 4-1. Despite the score, the Hogs had the MSU starter's number, but didn't take full advantage, as this game could have been far out of reach by the end of the 2nd. After the Bulldogs brought in a reliever with 2 outs in the 3rd, the Razorback offense begins to look pretty anemic. The Razorbacks finally get back on track in the 7th. Sample and Tim Carver get on with singles, McCann advances them with a sac bunt, Kuhn is walked to load the bases, and Bo Bigham hits a 2-RBI single to put the Hogs up 6-1. It just gets worse for the Bulldogs from there, as Andy Wilkins loads the bases on a HBP, and Eibner makes them pay with a grand slam. At this point, the Hogs have their most dominating lead of the whole weekend, 10-1. Fant's day ends after the 7th, and he's had a bheck of a day in his first SEC start. Through 7 innings, he only gives up 2 hits, 1 ER, 2 walks, and strikes out 4. He also retired his last 14 straight batters. Geoffrey Davenport comes on in relieves, and he does his part to make the game more competitive in the 8th, as he allows 2 Bulldogs to socre on a single, walk, double, and sac fly. The Hogs get those runs back in the top of the 9th, as Kuhn takes a HBP to lead off the inning, Bigham nails a double, Cox reaches when the left-fielder drops his pop-up, and Wilkins hits a bases-loaded single for 2 RBIs, all with no outs. Eibner follows that up with own RBI single to put the Hogs up 13-3. Davenport is replaced by Jordan Pratt for the 9th. Davenport gets by with 2 hits and 2 ER in 1 inning. The Bulldogs go 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 9th, and the Hogs win 13-3. Arkansas earns a SEC road series sweep, and Fant gets the much-deserved win.
The Hogs just keep rolling, week-in and week-out, although the toughest portion of their schedule still remains. The mid-week thrashing of Saint Louis was a nice confidence boost, and it's nice to see that it didn't make them over-confident for the Bulldogs. The series sweep of Mississippi State was huge. Not only was it on the road, where the Hogs need some practice with road series against Florida and Ole Miss looming, but it was also the first sweep in Starkville since 1998. Randall Fant had the Sunday starter job sewn up, but it remains to be seen how his recent troubles with the law will affect that. A decision hasn't been made yet because, to quote Coach Van Horn, "He's dealing with Dad right now". The loss of outfielder Jarrod McKinney is also saddening, as he was a solid contributor. On the flip side, it's nice to have Wilkins back, even though he's not quite back to form. All the shuffling to fill his spot at 1B opened a spot in the outfield, and Travis Sample has been exceptional. In 5 SEC starts, he's batting an amazing 0.706 (12-17). Look for him to fill-in for McKinney.
The Hogs currently sit at 26-6 on the year, and are up to #5 in the country, per Rivals. They've also finally broke into the top 10 of the rest of the major college baseball polls, and also have an outstanding #2 RPI. This week, the Diamond Hogs will be back at Baum all week, with a mid-week series with New Mexico and a visit from the Georgia Bulldogs over the weekend. It will be a tall order to extend their current 6-game win streak, as New Mexico is a much stouter team that you might imagine. Besides having a stellar 21-11 record and a #27 RPI, they also took 2-of-3 from the then #1 Texas Longhorns, in Austin, at the beginning of the season. The Georgia Bulldogs will be less of a challenge, though they're desperate for a marquee series win. Friday night's game is being broadcast at 6 P.M. on ESPN2, so everyone should be sure to check it out. With any luck, the Hogs will have eclipsed 30 wins by next Sunday, and may just have their 5th weekend series sweep under their belt, too. Woo Pig Sooie!