The No. 4 Razorbacks scored six runs in the first inning and cruised to a 11-5 win over Villanova on Friday in the season-opener in front of 6,317 fans at Baum Stadium.
Sam Bates (triple), Jacob Morris (double) and Tim Carver (single) all had RBI hits in the inning, and Arkansas sent nine batters to the plate. It served as plenty of run support for junior right-hander DJ Baxendale, who recorded five scoreless innings on a pitch count.
"We did a good job of making them throw pitches," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "We fouled off a lot of pitches and got into a lot of hitter's counts. We manufactured runs and moved people around, and put a lot of pressure on them early."
"He's going to play. He's an outstanding defender with a great arm," Van Horn said. "I don't expect him to hit like that all the time, but he has power. He can really run as you saw with that triple. It'd be nice if he hits."
Morris batted just .194 a year ago with 5 RBIs. He hit in the eight-hole for the Razorbacks before Van Horn made several position changes in the sixth inning.
"I was down in the order a little bit, probably where I belong the start the season," Morris said. "I struggled a little last season, so my number one priority was to start well. I saw a couple of pitches and hit them hard."
Morris' home run was the start to a three-run fourth to give the Razorbacks a 9-0 lead. Tim Carver scored on a RBI double by Matt Reynolds, who later scored on a wild pitch.
Carver, the fifth-year senior shortstop, stole two bases in the inning and three in the game.
"He did a great job running the bases," Van Horn said. "He did a nice of job of hitting line drive and ground balls up the middle. He created a little bit of havoc. He had a tremendous game for us."
While the offense was instrumental in the fast start, the Arkansas defense came through with several plays to back up Baxendale's off-day on the mound.
Baxendale worked around runners at third in three consecutive innings, stranding three Villanova runners in the third, two in the fourth and one in the fifth. Matt Reynolds' diving stop and throw to first base kept the Wildcats from plating at least one run in the fourth.
"There are a lot of things I still have to work on," Baxendale said. "I thought the defense played well behind me and the bats showed up early, and gave me a chance to relax."
The Wildcats got on the board in the top of the sixth, but the Razorbacks added two more in the bottom half on a Jimmy Bosco fielder's choice RBI and Michael Gunn sacrifice fly RBI to extend the lead to 11-1.
Matt Fleishman hit a two-out grand slam off Arkansas reliever Colby Suggs in the seventh. Nolan Sanburn, who had 12 save opportunities last season, pitched a perfect ninth inning, but didn't record the save.
"He'll close some games, no doubt," Van Horn said. "He may close a lot of games but it really depends on if (Barrett) Astin stays in the starting rotation."
The two teams will play again on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. Sophomore right-hander Ryne Stanek will get the start for Arkansas, while Villanova will counter with sophomore right-hander Pat Young.
Arkansas players are excited about the start to the season.
Jake Wise opened the season at catcher.
Sam Bates closes in on a play in right field.
Photos by Marc F. Henning