FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas outfielder Luke Bonfield has been tremendous since the Razorbacks began SEC play a month ago.
The junior is fresh off his best week yet with 5 hits and 2 home runs in a 3-game sweep of Georgia last week. He’s now has a .339 batting average with 4 home runs and 14 runs batted in 15 conference games. On Monday, the SEC announced him as its Player of the Week.
Bonfield’s surge in conference play has been quite the contrast from how his season began. Arkansas’ 3-hole hitter struggled to drive in runs and find his power until a challenge from coach Dave Van Horn changed everything.
“I just felt like Luke was being a little passive at the plate,” Van Horn said Monday. “We know how good of a hitter he is. We’ve seen him hit every day. We know how good of an eye he has at the plate. He doesn’t swing at a lot of bad pitches, but sometimes you have to look for a certain pitch in certain situations with runners in scoring position.
“I just told him, ‘Hey, you’re hitting in the 3-hole. There’s a reason. This is your third year here. You’re a feared hitter. Go out there and take some chances every now and then, attack something.’ It’s a little out of his style because he’s such a patient hitter, but he’s a middle of the order hitter and we’d really like to see him go out there and swing the bat.”
Van Horn’s message was delivered after the seventh game of the season, a 4-3 loss at Louisiana Tech. Bonfield responded the next day against the Bulldogs with his first home run of the season. The homer led off a critical 4-run seventh inning for the Hogs as they rallied from a 9-run deficit to win.
“I respect (Van Horn) so much,” Bonfield said Monday. “He’s really a player’s coach in that aspect. He’s willing to let guys struggle a little bit to get them going. He knows what you need. He kind of got on me after the first game at Louisiana Tech. That’s kind of what I needed, rather than feel sorry for myself. Kind of like a kick in the butt.”
Bonfield has been producing consistently ever since. He’s a major reason No. 14 Arkansas (29-8, 11-4 in SEC) is atop the conference at the halfway point in league play.
The Hogs are next in action Tuesday for the first of a 2-game set against Memphis. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. CT at Baum Stadium. Game 2 will be the same time Wednesday at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock, Ark.