FAYETTEVILLE — Driving in 10 runs while defensively sparkling as always in center field helping Arkansas win 2 of 3 at LSU last weekend has netted Christian Franklin named SEC Player of the Week.
The SEC Office in Birmingham,. Ala. announced Monday the honor to the junior center fielder from Overland Park, Kan.
For Arkansas’ 7-0 and 17-10 victories and 5-4 loss in Baton Rouge, Franklin opened Friday night with a 2-run single and 3-run home run in five at bats.
In Saturday’s doubleheader, Franklin logged three hits and four RBI in the 17-10 victory and in the 5-4 loss knocked in run with a sacrifice fly and singled during the 3-run ninth as the Razorbacks rallied from down 5-1.
Franklin also recorded some key catches in center and threw out a runner trying to advance on a hit from first to third.
Franklin’s weekend was especially rewarding, Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said, considering his .303 batting average should be even better considering the previous game multitude of line drives he’s smashed that were caught.
“I’ve said this a lot this year he’s been a little bit of the unlucky hitter,’ Van Horn said. “You take away one stretch there when he was 2 or 3 for 20 something but there were five or six balls in that stretch he hit right on the nose. He’s having a tremendous, tremendous year. He’s hitting a little over .300 and he leads our team with 11 doubles, he has 10 home runs, 45 RBI I think he’s been Mr. Consistent.
Defensively in center, Franklin, the freshman left fielder on Arkansas’ 2019 College World Series team while since turned pro defensive whiz Dominic Fletcher played center, picked up in 2020 and thereafter where Fletcher left off.
“Our center fielder is as good as any in the country,” Van Horn said. “I don’t know if there’s better because he’s definitely as good.”
The nationally No. 1 Razorbacks, 34-8 overall and leading the SEC West at 15-6 one game ahead of 14-7 SEC West runner-up and 14-7 SEC East leaders Vanderbilt and Tennessee, host the SEC East’s Georgia Bulldogs 27-16 overall/ 10-11 in the SEC, Friday through Sunday at Baum-Walker Stadium.
Game times are 6:30 p.m. Friday,, 6 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
After recent struggling starts by No. 3 starter Lael Lockhart, routed in the first inning last Saturday at LSU, Van Horn contemplates starting freshman reliever Jaxon Wiggins Sunday after mainstays Patrick Wicklander and Benton’s Peyton Pallette start Friday night and Saturday night.
Wiggins began the season as the closer but has idled on recent SEC weekends while senior Kevin Kopps 6-0 and six saves., 0.85 earned run average and 75 strikeouts in 42 1-3 innings, has netted national recognition for his three-innings saves.
“You might even see Jaxon Wiggins out there a little bit more,” Van Horn said. “We’re starting to build his pitch count and maybe give him an opportunity to start here shortly. We haven’t used him at all the last couple of weekends because we’ve finished with Kevin and gone with the hot hand.”
Wiggins, with a fastball consistently in the high 90s, was doing fine at 3-0 with four saves.
“Jaxon has got a really good arm,” Van Horn said. “He’s had some good saves for us and we’re working on trying to get him in there a little bit more. I think you’ll see that in the future.”
If not used the Georgia weekend, as Van Horn also mulls experienced SEC starters Zebulon Vermillion, Caleb Bolden and Lockhart for Sunday’s game, Wiggins would seem a candidate to start the May 11 Tuesday nonconference game against Arkansas State at Baum-Walker.