Schedule change to avoid storms in Saturday forecast.
FAYETTEVILLE - Saturday’s forecast of thunderstorms and lightning flashes has altered this weekend’s 3-game baseball series at Baum Stadium between Arkansas and the Kent State Golden Flashes.
The Razorbacks, 9-3, and the 6-3 Golden Flashes of Kent, Ohio and the defending Mid-American Conference champions will play a 3 p.m. doubleheader today with both games nine innings, sit out Saturday, and play their 1 p.m. Sunday game as scheduled.
All Friday tickets are good for both Friday games. Saturday’s game tickets are void but can be exchanged for future games this season, the University of Arkansas announced Thursday.
Like most northern schools, the Golden Flashes have yet to play a home game but unlike most MAC schools, Kent State’s baseball program is of sufficient renown to have played in the College World Series.
In fact the lone Arkansas vs. Kent State meeting was the 2012 College World Series opener that Coach Dave Van Horn’s Razorbacks won, 8-1.
“It’s a proud program,” Van Horn said of Kent State. “Ohio State may not feel that way, but they (Kent State) may be the best baseball program in Ohio.”
In Van Horn’s view, the Golden Flashes stack up to the Southern California Trojans that Arkansas beat 4-0 and 7-6 between a 3-1 loss in last weekend’s 3-game series at Baum.
“It'll be like playing USC again,” Van Horn said. “And if we don't play better than we did against USC we'll have a hard time winning the series. They just try to capitalize on your mistakes is what every coach I’ve talked to told me. We need to play mistake-free baseball and we don’t need to walk them and make them earn everything they get.”
Catcher Brad Hamilton, .394 and five home runs in nine games, leads the Golden Flashes attack for Coach Jeff Duncan.
Kent State already has stolen 17 bases, seven swiped by infield Tim DalPorto.
Starting with senior lefty Eric Kraus, Duncan has started lefty, righty, lefty for Kent State’s nine games.
Van Horn today will start his No. 1 and No. 2 starters, juniors Blaine Knight, 2-0, 0.53 ERA, and Isaiah Campbell, 1-1, 1.88, and Sunday debut start freshman right-hander Bryce Bonnin, 1-0 and 0.00 ERA and eight strikeouts in 6 1-3 relief innings with regular third-game series lefty starter Kacey Murphy likely starting Tuesday’s game of the Tuesday and Wednesday series with the Texas Longhorns here before Razorbacks open SEC play hosting Kentucky March 16-18.
Regarding starting Bonnin, Van Horn said, “He threw great last week (five hitless relief innings winning 11-0 over Dayton). We need to see what he can do as a starter. So last nonconference series we feel we need to give him that opportunity and if you look at his numbers he’s earned it.”
The injury plagued saga of right-hander Keaton Mckinney, an outstanding freshman on Arkansas’ 2015 College World Series team but since then having to recover first from hip surgery and then last year Tommy John elbow surgery apparently has taken another unfortunate turn.
McKinney hasn’t pitched since throwing two innings against Bucknell on Feb. 18 and apparently won’t for awhile.
“There is something (possibly bone chips) floating around in there,” Van Horn said doctors reported. “We’re just going to rest him a little bit and he’s going to go through a little rehab and we’re going to try again in a few weeks or a week or two.”
If the elbow hasn’t responded, then McKinney will shut it down for 2018 and try to heal for 2019, Van Horn said.