There’s never been any doubt throughout the 2012 season that the Razorbacks (25-10, 8-7) belong in the conversation among the best college baseball teams in the nation. Arkansas’ 2-1 series loss to Kentucky (32-5, 11-4) only evokes more what if’s about the Hogs chances in the College World Series than creates wavering confidence for what the future may hold.
Friday night’s series opener tells the casual fan all they may need to know about the grit of the Razorbacks team. In a back and forth offensive affair, the Hogs got an early 1-0 in the first inning only to give up two runs in the third.
In the bottom of the third Arkansas scored two more runs to reclaim the lead letting Kentucky know they would not bow out easily.
As expected from a team ranked No. 3 in the nation by Baseball America and No. 1 by Collegiate Baseball, Kentucky let the world know they are highly ranked for a reason. The Wildcats put up four more runs in the top of the fourth knocking out one of Arkansas’ ace pitchers, Ryne Stanek.
Stanek left the game after throwing 3.1 innings, giving up six runs, five earned, and striking out six. Stanek entered the game 6-1 with a 1.65 ERA, third best among all pitchers in the SEC.
With Stanek out Cade Lynch entered the game for the Hogs. Lynch would work a season high 5.2 innings only allowing one run on three hits. The lone Kentucky run Lynch allowed gave the SEC East leaders a 7-5 lead in the sixth inning.
In the bottom of the seventh inning leftfielder Derek Bleeker hit a bases clearing three-run triple to give the Hogs an 8-7 lead. All the run support Lynch would need to close out the game.
The Hogs showed the moxie and spirit one has come to expect from a Dave Van Horn managed team. Despite the early exit of one of their top starters, the Hogs never gave up in the field or at the plate. Shortstop Tim Carver turned in a 4-4 performance scoring three runs with two RBI.
Game one of Saturday’s double header encapsulates the talent on the Razorbacks team along with the frustrating dynamics within.
After going 4-4 at the plate in Friday’s game, Arkansas shortstop Tim Carver accounted for three errors in the first inning of game two allowing the Wildcats to jump out on the Hogs 3-0.
Arkansas would respond with two runs in the bottom frame and two more in the bottom of the second.
Barrett Astin completed four full frames allowing two earned runs in the fourth. Brandon Moore pitched a personal high 5.0 scoreless innings and scattering two hits to close out the game.
Carver’s three errors pushed his team high and SEC lead for the dubious honor to 15 on the season. The reflection is not upon Carver’s play alone but on the delicate balance that comprises the Diamond Hogs.
As a team the Hogs hit for a strong average (.275), have a talented weekend rotation, and a deep bullpen. What they lack is homerun threats throughout the lineup.
Florida has three players ranked in the top 10 in homeruns (Zunio 10, Tucker 9, and Fontana 7) and Kentucky (Maile 9 and Flynn 9) has two. The Hogs have none.
Third baseman Matt Reynolds hit his fourth homerun of the season on Saturday to tie Dominic Ficociello for the team lead.
When the Hogs give up unearned runs they put themselves in a tough hole to climb out of, a whole that cannot be made up with one swing of the bat with this lineup.
In game one of Saturday’s doubleheader the Hogs only managed three hits. To the credit of the team they drew five walks and put the bat on the ball to force three Kentucky errors to stay in the game.
Arkansas was only able to capitalize on one unearned run to Kentucky’s three; the big difference in the 5-4 final of game two.
To be fair to Carver, he is among the conference leaders in assists, ranking No. 7 in the SEC with 92 total assists entering play against Kentucky. A player does not have that many opportunities by letting the ball come to him. Carver has also played second base when asked by Van Horn.
Lost in the shuffle of Saturday’s loss was an end to first baseman Dominic Ficociello’s hitting streak of ten games. Ficociello went 0-4 in game two of the series after going 1-3 on Friday with his first triple of the season.
Ground lost at the plate in game one of the doubleheader was quickly made up in game two. Ficociello bounced back going 3-4.
Game three turned into a pitcher’s duel between Kentucky’s Corey Littrell and Arkansas’ D.J. Baxendale. Littrell would get the win to improve to 6-0 while Baxendale took the loss to drop to 6-2 but Baxendale shutdown a highly potent Wildcat offense for eight innings only allowing two earned runs.
Ficociello provided three of the Hogs nine hits, backup catcher John Clay Reeves added another two hits. The Hogs squandered opportunities in the fourth and fifth innings leaving eight men on base during the series finale.
The game three final score of 2-1 only adds fuel to the fire that the Hogs belong among the best teams in the nation but must continue to play at a high level if they hope to reach the College World Series.
Arkansas hosts Stephen F. Austin (14-21, 7-11) for another doubleheader on Tuesday April 17 before traveling to Ole Miss to face the Rebels April 20-22.
First pitch against the Lumberjacks is scheduled for 3:05 CST.
The Lumberjacks are coming off three straight series losses against Northwestern State, Lamar, and McNeese State.
Hog Diamond Notes
Matt Reynolds and Dominic Ficociello are not only tied for the team lead in homeruns (4) but also in batting average (.336). Ficociello is tied for the most hits on the team (43) with Carver.
Baxendale’s eight innings of two-run work against the Wildcats lowered his ERA from 4.20 to 3.88.
Ryne Stanek’s roughest outing of the season bumped his ERA from 1.65 to 2.41. Stanek continues to lead the team in innings pitched (52.1) and strikeouts thrown (55).
Dominic Ficociello continued his excellent play at first base during the series. With 318 putouts and 17 assists in the books, he has only committed one error on the year.
The Hogs have committed five more errors than their opponents to date 44-39.
After three games against Kentucky and one game against Oklahoma last week, Arkansas’ pitching staff has seen a rise in their team ERA from 2.65 to 2.73.
Topics: Arkansas, Arkansas Razorbacks, Baseball, College Baseball, D.J. Baxendale, Dave Van Horn, Dominic Ficociell, Kentucky Wildcats, Matt Reynolds, No. 1 Kentucky Vs. No. 11 Arkansas, Razorbacks, Recap Kentucky Vs. Arkansas, Ryne Stanek, SEC, SEC Baseball, Tim Carver, University Of Arkansas