FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The cure for Arkansas’ shy bats? Texas pitching.
Tuesday night’s Game One of a two-game set was a good, old-fashioned whipping. The Razorbacks were on the preferred end, as far as the partial Baum Stadium crowd was concerned, of a 13-4 score. For one night, anyway, Arkansas had the best of its old Southwest Conference rival.
Most importantly for Arkansas’ prospects in 2018, its hitting impressed against a quality team.
That had been the big knock – pardon the pun – against the Diamond Hogs this year. Nit-picky, maybe, but Arkansas averaging fewer than five runs a game against teams with RPIs in the top 100. Not terrible, but also not the stuff top-5, top-10 teams in the country are made of.
Seven runs in the third inning. Four runs in the fifth. More than enough to dispatch the struggling Longhorns, who are now just a game over .500 (9-8). Every single Arkansas starter reached base. All but one of them scored. The quality came throughout the lineup, from the top to the bottom.
Most impressive of them was first baseman Jordan McFarland, who may have just put his stamp on the permanent (or semi-permanent) first base duties. He went 2 of 4 with a double, four RBI and two runs. The game was only his second straight start and fourth of the season. McFarland had been, for the most part, second fiddle to Jared Gates.
A two-home run, five-RBI performance against Kent State on Sunday earned him the nod Tuesday. Odds are, after the game against the Longhorns, it will earn regular starting gigs going forward.
Kacey Murphy did his part on the other side. The Arkansas left-hander was good, if unspectacular. He went six innings, giving up five hits and didn’t walk a soul. Murphy had been a weekend starter until Kent State. With him pitching Tuesday, however, it doesn’t mean he can’t pitch again Sunday when Arkansas opens SEC play against Kentucky.
The third was the Benny Hill-like inning for Texas. Arkansas plated its seven runs on four hits and two Longhorns errors. One of those hits should have been an error, but the Texas fielder misplayed the ball so badly it never touched him, ergo no error.
Casey Martin his his team-high fifth home run in the fifth to make that inning’s biggest statement. He took a swing at a ball up around his eyes and no one, not even Martin, anticipated it going out. He stood in the batter’s box and watched, figuring it was going foul. Instead, despite the visual cue of Texas’ leftfielder going over to the fence on the wrong side of the foul line, the ball clanged off the pole. Surprise home run.
Grading the Hogs
Pitching a nine-run lead over the last four innings meant Arkansas pitchers could throw to contact. As such, strikeout numbers weren’t sexy. But the truth is, Texas was kept off-balance most of the night. Murphy, the lefty, is a specialist at that.
Breadth and depth. The whole lineup.
The Big Stick + The Arm
His perfect earned-run average was tainted when Texas scored one in the fourth, but it’s still a glimmering 1.12.
Stick: Eric Cole
Really, probably McFarland. But this allows a chance to get Cole’s line into the story. The outfielder went 3 for 5 with two doubles, three RBI and a run.
What’s next for Arkansas?
One more with Texas on Wednesday night. After that comes the important stuff. Kentucky visits Baum Stadium this weekend for a three-game set to open SEC play.