This was the kind of game Arkansas needed before heading to Baton Rouge and Alex Box Stadium this weekend for an all-important weekend series with LSU.
Arkansas' offense, which did well Tuesday only to be let down by the 10 runs given up by the pitching staff, brought it again in game two of the mid-week set with No. 17 UNLV. And the pitching staff Wednesday, led by freshman Alex Phillips, propelled Arkansas to a series split.
Phillips was dominant Wednesday. After the game, Dave Van Horn said Phillips finally pitched the way he pitched all of fall practice. His final line was 6 IP, 1 hit, 1 walk and 4Ks. He was pulled after only 82 pitches, but was fantastic.
The freshman was dealing and hadn't surrendered a hit going into his fifth inning of work. But UNLV finally got in the hit column with two down in the fifth, but credit to Phillips for a terrific outing and earning his third win of the season. His earned run average also dropped from 2.25 to 1.64 tonight.
Phillips said the key to his success was his fastball command. He said he made adjustments on the mound, kept the ball down in the zone all night long and just let his defense work behind him.
Now, about that Arkansas offense. Dave Van Horn looks like a freaking genius for putting Tyler Spoon in the leadoff spot. I'll be honest, I was skeptical of the decision at first, but that's why I'm not on the top step of the dugout.
In the last four games, Arkansas has scored 27 runs, all with Spoon hitting from the leadoff spot. Spoon says he's just staying within himself at the plate, and the results are coming. DVH said he's not moving Spoon from the leadoff spot given the recent success of the offense, and who could blame him.
But the offense pushed runs across in each of the first four innings, jumping out to a 7-0 lead early on. And who was in the middle of all the action, you ask? Tyler Spoon. He dropped a three-run BOMB, his third of the season, into the Arkansas bullpen in the 2nd to put Arkansas up 5-0.
Clark Eagan, who earned just his 13th start of the season, tripled down the line in right in the third inning, and Jake Wise squeezed him home two batters later.
It would be wrong of me to do this game recap without mentioning Jake Wise recording a pair of hits in the game. Coming into action Wednesday, Wise was hitting a lowly .115 (7-for-78) for the season. His two singles and his squeeze bunt were big for the offense.
Arkansas pounded out 12 hits for the game and scored nine runs. It was a good day at the plate to say the least, and against a very solid UNLV club who just didn't bring it for game two.
Other postgame notes:
– Blake Baxendale's hand, which he injured in Tuesday's game, is not broken, DVH said. He will travel to LSU this weekend, and hopes to be swinging a bat by Saturday. I saw his hand, and it's not pretty, trust me.
– The starting rotation for Arkansas at LSU this weekend will be Trey Killian, Jalen Beeks, and Chris Oliver.