FAYETTEVILLE — Indeed there’s no rest for the weary if the Arkansas Razorbacks’ beleaguered bullpen spent against SEC West rival Ole Miss last Friday and Saturday can’t vacation while the Hogs host the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions nonconference tonight and Wednesday.
Game times are 6:30 p.m and 4 p.m at Baum-Walker Stadium.
Nationally ranked No. 1 by D-1 Baseball after beating No. 3 twice of thrice in Oxford, Miss. while nationally No. 1/SEC East leader Vanderbilt was losing 2 of 3 to Georgia, Coach Dave Van Horn’s SEC West leading Razorbacks bring a 26-5 record to Baum-Walker.
Meanwhile Coach Carlos James’ visiting Golden Lions of the SWAC (Southwestern Athletic Conference) struggle 2-19 overall and 0-11 away from the SWAC.
However with no Arkansas starter lasting past four innings at Ole Miss and one chased in the third, the Golden Lions can harbor hopes of inflicting some damage to the Hogs whose bullpen was stretched thin in Oxford.
So thin that Van Horn plans to disarm them tonight and Wednesday as the Texas A&M Aggies loom for a Friday through Sunday SEC West 3-game series at Baum-Walker. Kevin Kopps especially will be rested. Kopps pitched the final three innings saving the 7-3 first game of Saturday’s doubleheader. After the Hogs absorbed a 13-6 loss in Saturday’s second game, Kopps pitched the final three innings winning Sunday’s slugfest 18-14 after an 11-0 Arkansas lead evaporated for the Hogs to be fit to be tied, 14-14.
“We’re all definitely concerned about starting pitching,” Van Horn said Sunday in Oxford. “It’s not giving us enough innings. We’re having to get into our bullpen way too early. We are going to wear out. Obviously the guys you saw come out of the pen a lot the last two days, they won’t throw all week until Friday or Saturday. We’ve got to have some starters give us some time.”
Caleb Bolden tonight, and Kole Ramage Wednesday will start for Arkansas against UAPB.
“Those two guys will start and we’ll probably go from there,” Van Horn said Sunday. “Ramage threw yesterday (two rough innings Saturday pounded for six hits and six runs). Bolden didn’t throw at all this weekend so he’ll probably go Game One on Tuesday.”
Van Horn said the starters and those relievers that struggled paid the same price.
“ You can’t face good offenses behind in the count,” Van Horn said. “You know 1-0, 2-1, 3-1, they’re gonna hit you and they did.”
UAPB doesn’t swing the bats like Ole Miss, but left fielder Kacy Higgins and shortstop Karsten Vasquez do hit .324 and .291 and first baseman Nick Kreutzer, .286, has hit five home runs and totaled 17 RBI.
Freshman right fielder Cayden Wallace of Greenbrier, .302, eight home runs and 19 RBI, leads the Razorbacks’ regulars in batting average as Arkansas hits .280 as a team with first baseman Brady Slavens leading the team with 33 RBI.
Left fielder/pinch hitter Zack Gregory, hamstring injury Saturday in Oxford, likely won’t play against UAPB.
“I hope he’s ready for A&M,” Van Horn said. “I don’t know, though, we’ll see.”
— Nate Allen, Special to the Guard