Arkansas kicked off the 2014 baseball season by doing just what it was supposed to: drum Appalachian State. The Razorbacks did it in impressive fashion, too, playing well in nearly every aspect of the game (despite the one error by backup SS Josh Alberius).
The Hogs started off the game offensively by hanging crooked numbers in four of the first five innings. The offense got it going in the first inning with three straight singles, the last of which being Tyler Spoon's, scoring Joe Serrano. Two batters later, Brett McAfee hit a two-out, two-run single to left field to put the score at 3-0 after one inning.
After a scoreless second inning, Arkansas got two more runs across with a KJ Wilkerson opposite field home run. Wilkerson showed great opposite field power in the game, later drilling a double into the right centerfield gap in the sixth inning. He went 3-for-5 with a pair of RBI and scored two runs.
Then in the fourth, All-American Brian Anderson hit a rocket into left center, clearing the bases and cruised to a double, pushing Arkansas' lead to 8-0. Anderson was 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles, and even showed off tremendous speed by hustling into third after the App State centerfielder dropped a routine fly ball.
The misplay by App State's centerfielder in the fifth inning scored two more runs for Arkansas, pushing the lead to 11-0. But his error came just moments after running in to make a diving catch and rob Joe Serrano of his fourth hit of the game. Serrano's sac fly scored McAfee.
Arkansas would tack on another run late as Bobby Wernes (love that name) hit into a fielder's choice, scoring KJ Wilkerson.
But we should not forget the stellar performance from Jalen Beeks on the bump. Beeks went six solid innings, giving up just three hits (two of the three came in the first two innings), walking one batter and striking out six. Beeks induced a pair of double plays in the first two innings to get out of minor jams in each. He then cruised the rest of the way, making light work of the Mountaineer lineup.
Appalachian State did tack on a couple of late runs off freshman Dominic Taccolini, but made no difference in the game.
Arkansas only used four pitchers in the game (Beeks, Lowery, Taccolini, and Lance Phillips), but it's all they needed against the shorthanded Mountaineers. A number of App State players were not available due to complications with the flight into Fayetteville. They should be full strength on Saturday and Sunday.
But the Razorbacks took care of business like they should have even if the opponent was full strength. They hit well, and with power, hustled and made the right plays. Arkansas also pounded out 13 hits and drove in 10 runs. Those are numbers you like to see on Opening Day.
Game two of the three-game set is slated for 12:05 p.m. on Saturday. Junior Chris Oliver is projected to take the ball for the Hogs Saturday in his third career start.
Operation: Omaha is underway.
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