Four weekends into the season and Arkansas baseball is still finding its footing against good teams.
The Razorbacks have not been bad whatsoever. Clearly. They are ranked top-five in the nation in a couple polls. Top-10 in all of them. But Friday’s doubleheader against Kent State went exactly how most of the first month of the season has: consistently inconsistent.
Arkansas won the first game, 7-1, behind a lineup that pelted hits, dropped home runs, drew walks. A typical All-American-esque start from Blaine Knight helped the cause. Game Two, however, was more scattershot. Kent State took the nightcap, 10-4.
The Razorbacks had had difficulty putting up runs against good teams this year. Against teams with an RPI better than 140, Arkansas had scored 27 runs in seven games. That’s less than four runs a game. Against teams worse than 140, had scored 78 runs in five games. Kent State entered Friday with an RPI in the top 50.
Arkansas split the difference, landing closer to the more inadequate portion of its opponent splits.
Game One saw the Razorbacks knock 10 hits, walks six times, belt a couple home runs. It was as impressive an offensive performance as Arkansas has had this year against a good team. Eric Cole’s 3-run homer the biggest highlight in an afternoon that saw several.
Game Two, the Diamond Hogs had six hits and struck out 10 times. Not sure a comparable performance to the first game would have mattered, in fairness. Kent State ran roughshed over most Arkansas pitchers in the nightcap.
And the Razorbacks haven’t faced Kent State’s ace yet, either. Joel Murray is a preseason second-team All-American, same as Knight, and the preseason Mid-American Conference Pitcher of the Year. He is likely to start Sunday’s series finale. Arkansas has not lost a series yet this year.
Isaiah Campbell, Arkansas’ second starter Friday, had his worst performance of the season. Kent State jumped him early to the tune of three first-inning runs. Campbell would leave after 3 2/3 innings having allowed eight base-runners and giving up five runs. Compounding the rough outing was that only one of Campbell’s runs allowed were earned. A fielding error by second baseman Carson Shaddy in the first meant none of those runs should have scored. Shortstop Jax Biggers’ throwing error in the third would have kept another run off the board. Instead, by the middle of the fourth, it was 5-1 Kent State.
Grading the Hogs
Excellent in first game. Knight did his thing, Kole Ramage struck out four in two innings. Jacob Kostyshock worked himself out of trouble. Then Campbell didn’t have, nor did relievers Caleb Bolden or Cody Scroggins.
Arkansas is going to have to find a way to score regularly against quality opponents. It’s that simple. Well, it’s that difficult may be more apt.
The Big Stick + The Arm
Arkansas’ ace has been all that. He gave up four hits and a run in six innings but didn’t walk a soul and struck out six. Van Horn has his hoss at the top of the weekend.
He has been the team’s offensive Most Valuable Player so far this year. His combined line was 2 of 6 with a home run, two runs, three RBI and three walks. Cole is hitting .388 this year.
What’s next for Arkansas?
No game Saturday in this series. The teams decided ahead of time to play Friday’s doubleheader because of the threat of thunderstorms Saturday. They will conclude the three-game set Sunday. After that enter the Texas Longhorns.