Barrett Astin has a new out pitch. So far it's been lights out for the sophomore righthander from Forrest City.
Astin was already superb. He pitched in a team-high 27 games last year, 24 in relief. He posted a 5-2 record with three saves and a 2.72 ERA while earning freshman All-America honors from Collegiate Baseball magazine and the Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.
There was some specular stuff in SEC games. For example, he recorded the save to clinch the series against Florida and also posted a save and a victory in the doubleheader sweep against Ole Miss to end the season for the SEC West title.
But he thought he needed a little more to his repertoire. He was thinking that even during a successful summer in the Cape Cod League and a good fall with the Razorbacks. So when he came back after the Christmas break, he went to DJ Baxendale and Nolan Sanburn to discuss how they throw their dynamite curve ball.
"I knew I had to figure out something new," Astin said. "I had a breaking pitch last year, kind of a slurve. I'd say it was kind of loopy."
Astin wanted a breaking pitch with harder movement.
"Bax and Sanburn showed me how to grip the ball a little different and I started working on it in the bullpen," Astin said. "I had to get my mechanics where it looked the same as my other pitches. I finally got enough confidence to use it in a game.
"The first time it looked right in a game was last week against Brigham Young," he said. "I used it quite a few times in that one inning. I used it again this weekend (in the Houston College Classic). It was alright against Texas Tech, but it was really good against Texas. I used it quite a bit in those two innings."
The Longhorns didn't touch it. Some who saw Astin mow down the Longhorns called his breaker "unhittable." There were a lot of swing and misses, not even foul balls.
"It worked pretty good," said Astin, the master of low key. "I'm still working on it. I want to make sure that my mechanics are the same."
So far so good. He's looked good enough that head coach Dave Van Horn is in a quandry on how to use Astin. Could he be a starter, or is he best used perhaps twice on the weekend as one of college baseball's most devastating closers?
Arkansas plays host to Binghamton in a three-game series this weekend, weather allowing. Unfortunately, for Binghamton, that may be a familiar refrain. First pitch on Friday is scheduld for 3:05 p.m.
The Bearcats have played only three games this year, all two weeks ago at Virginia Commonwealth. Last week's entire slate at Norfolk was rained out.
Binghamton doesn't have any true home games this year while their facility is getting a facelift. Binghamton will split its 10 "home" games between sites at Cornell University and NYSEG Stadium in downtown Binghamton.
The Bearcats lost three straight at VCU to open the season, including a pair of 5-1 decisions to start the series.
Binghamton's own preview on the school website proclaims that the Bearcats are in a rebuilding mode after losing four key position players. There is key talent returning on the mound, including ace starter Mike Aguliera, a strikeout specialist. He fanned 15 in one game last May....
Arkansas plans to start Ryne Stanek, DJ Baxendale and Randall Fant -- in that order -- this weekend....
The Hogs had Monday and Tuesday off after playing 13 games in 16 games to open the season. They had no midweek games on the week. They were probably going to have to work inside on Thursday with thunderstorms dumped over one inch on Fayetteville. The Hogs put the tarp on the Baum Stadium infield after Wednesday's workout....
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