FAYETTEVILLE - Six games into the season, Arkansas is getting heady performances from a bunch of first-year players. Pitchers Brandon Moore, Cade Lynch and Nolan Sanburn helped the Hogs lower their team ERA to just 1.50. Freshman first baseman Dominic Ficociello had three hits and four RBI.
That was more than enough to help the Razorbacks swamp Utah, 10-1, before 4,111 Sunday at Baum Stadium. It gives them a 6-0 start for the first time since they opened the 2006 season with nine straight victories.
Kyle Robinson had two hits, two runs and two RBI. He's the team leader with 8 RBI. Bo Bigham had one hit, scored twice and had an RBI. He extended his hitting streak to 12 games.
Moore (2-0) went six innings for the second straight Sunday. The true freshman from Van Buren dazzled the Utes on his 19th birthday. He threw 81 pitches and allowed just four hits and one run.
"He's been really good," said pitching coach Dave Jorn. "I like what he's done a lot. He's throwing strikes and he's moving it in and out.
Lynch, sophomore transfer, gave up just one hit in two innings. True freshman Nolan Sanburn pitched a perfect ninth in his first outing of the season. The shutout relief pitching continued a trend on the season. The Arkansas bullpen has allowed only one run in 23 innings this season.
"I think we are less nervous," Moore said. "We just go out there and pitch."
The only problem Moore had was a lack of confidence in a new pitch. He left after the Hogs took 30 minutes in the bottom of the sixth to go up 10-1.
"I tried to mix in a changeup today and I almost hit the guy the only time I threw it," he laughed. "I'll work on it and try to get it going next time. I just stuck with the fast ball and the slider today. Utah is a fast ball hitting team so I got them with the slider. That's always been my out pitch."
The Utes had a hard time getting Ficociello out. The Fullerton, Calif., newcomer had only one hit in his pervious 11 at bats before Sunday. But some work with hitting coach Todd Butler paid off.
"I've been too aggressive, just swinging at too many pitches," Ficociello said. "Curve ball and changeups in the dirt have gotten me. I'd swing at them every time. I just had to wait for pitches in the zone and today I did that.
"Coach Butler sat the pitching machine in the cage where it mixed in some bad pitches and I just had to stay off of them. Today I did."
Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn recognized that patience in the sixth inning when Ficociello drove the last nail into the Utah coffin with a two-run double on a 3-0 count. Ficociello had driven a double off the wall in right into the teeth of a 30 mph wind in the second and plated another run with a single through the hole to the right side in the fifth inning.
"That first one would have been out any other day," Van Horn said. "I liked his at bat on the second double. They threw him a 1-0 changeup in the dirt and he stayed off of it. So I rewarded him by turning him loose on 3-0."
Ficociello said he got the pitch he was looking for on the 3-0 count.
"The guy was throwing strikes until then, so I figured he'd groove one," Ficociello said. "I just stayed back and put it down the line past third. I usually would take 3-0, but I understand why he green lighted me."
Butler liked what he saw of the young hitter.
"He's going to be fine," Butler said. "He's going to hit. He is a solid freshman.
"We haven't hit the way we are going to, but we put together a good inning in the sixth (for six runs). I see signs of what we are going to do. I think it's just a case of playing some games and getting the jitters gone.
"We've been facing our own pitching and it's pretty good. I don't think any of us are surprised at the way we pitched. We've gone against Moore and we haven't hit him yet. No one else has, either."
Moore was low key about the game and his birthday.
"I think Coach Van Horn said happy birthday to me," he said. "I guess the only present I got was the victory. But my family is here and I think they are going to take me to dinner tonight. I might get something then."
Utah's hitters might not appreciate that. After all, the Utes got no gifts from Moore.