FAYETTEVILLE - Coach Dave Van Horn’s baseball Razorbacks switch from the climate advantaged their season-opening three games in Fayetteville to the climate disadvantaged heading to San Diego for tonight’s with the Arizona Wildcats then the Tony Gwynn Legacy games Friday, Saturday and Sunday against Cal Poly, San Diego State and the University of San Diego.
Game times (CST are 9 tonight, 3 p.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday and all will be televised by Cox Sports Television and broadcast on the Razorbacks Radio Network.
At Baum Stadium in Fayetteville last weekend Arkansas swept the Bucknell Bison, 14-2, 32-4 and 3-1.
The Bison of the Patriot League spent their January into February training in the snowy climate of their campus in Lewisburg, Pa.
Not that anybody weeps for the Razorbacks with their indoor practice facility at the Fowler Center, but this time they play three warm-weather teams that have practiced outside in the baseball winter preseason more than Arkansas has practiced at Baum.
“We’re going to be playing teams that we can match up with any of them.” Van Horn said. “But I don’t know if we’re as far along as they are, just due to they’re all West Coast schools. They’re outside year-around. We’re going to be just as talented or more talented, but it’s just a matter of if we can play well. I think it’ll be a good trip, win or lose some games, just because we’re going to get better.”
Van Horn relished the Razorbacks breaking out the bats Friday and Saturday behind winning starting pitchers Blaine Knight of Bryant and Isaiah Campbell, Campbell returned from being idled last season by bone spurs finally removed from his right arm, and the raft of relievers that effectively followed them.
And Van Horn relished that after hitting a home run both Friday and Saturday and totaling eight RBI for those two games, fifth-year senior second baseman Carson Shaddy of Fayetteville came through with the clutch-go ahead 2-1 leading RBI single of Arkansas’ 3-1 victory Sunday. It completed Shaddy’s 9-RBI weekend that Monday earned him SEC Player of the Week honors from the SEC Office in Birmingham, Ala.
Kind of makes Van Horn and hitting coach Nate Thompson take notice with the 3-year letterman senior Shaddy dropped to the 9-hole because of Arkansas’ hitting depth so evident Friday and Saturday.
“ You know, I was actually joking around with him (Van Horn) this morning during BP,” Shaddy said after Friday’s opener. “I was like, 'You know that was the last thing I would have expected, was to be in the 9-hole. I had done it before, it's been probably since I was a sophomore in high school. Eric (Cole previously batting leadoff but now hitting third) said the other day, ‘After the first inning it doesn't matter.’ My second at-bat I came up with two guys on. It's just a number. I'll do whatever I can to help this team.”
After blowing out Bucknell with the wind blowing out, particularly Saturday when the Razorback hit six home runs, Sunday’s 3-1 game with the wind blowing in provided far better preparation for the competition awaiting in San Diego.
“Looking ahead this kind of game is probably what we needed,” Van Horn said Sunday. “A little it of drama, a little tension, nothing’s in the bag going into the ninth inning.”
Junior left-hander Kacey Murphy of Rogers, 5-1 last season, starts against Arizona, 3-0 off the weekend sweeping Bryant University, in tonight’s game. Tonight’s game was arranged because the Razorbacks and Wildcats are both in San Diego for this Tony Gwynn Legacy, named for the late San Diego State coach and San Diego Padres Hall of Fame outfielder, but weren’t schedule to play each other.
Arizona, consistently a national power representing the the Pac 12, beat Arkansas, 3-0 during a February tournament last season in Frisco, Texas.
“They’ve got four or five of their best hitters back in their lineup,” Van Horn said. “I know their lineup right now is a little left-handed heavy with three or four or five of their better guys can swing it from the left side.”
Van Horn said Knight would start Friday against Cal Poly, 1-3 playing in the Surprise Tournament in Surprise, Ariz, from last Friday through Monday beating Gonzaga then losing to New Mexico, Oregon State and Gonzaga.
Campbell will start Saturday against San Diego State, 3-0 over a weekend sweep of California-Santa Barbara before playing San Diego Tuesday night.
Van Horn said he’s keeping his starting pitching options open for Sunday’s game against San Diego, 2-2 going into Tuesday’s San Diego State having split two games with the California Golden Bears and splitting two games with the Cincinnati Bearcats.