Grambling trotted eight pitchers to the mound, none of them with any velocity. To the credit of the Arkansas hitters, they were able to adjust to the lack of heat en route to an 8-0 victory Wednesday at Baum Stadium, just the kind of outing Dave Van Horn wanted to see after a tight fit Tuesday.
The Razorbacks (11-7) cruised after scoring two in the first, three in the third. Alex Phillips and Jackson Lowery each pitched three inings, Dominic Taccolini two and Landon Simpson the final frame to blank the Tigers (3-17) on seven hits. Phillips earned his first decison with the 38-pitch start.
"That was nice, a good start," Van Horn said. "(Grambling) can hit, but this was definitely different pitching than what we are used to in the SEC. They don't have a lot of velocity and more off speed, but our guys adjusted.
"It was good to win and get some offense going. Our guys know they need to get better and more consistent and need to get better at the plate."
The highlight of the game was the end, as is the case with most midweek victories, generally nondescript. This ending was spectacular. Third baseman Josh Alberius, picked off in a pinch running role in the seventh, went into the stands for the final out. He dove across the first row of seats just past the photographer's well and made the grab near the second row of seats, falling into the stands with the catch.
"It was definitely a relief to get on top early and get some guys in the game, like Josh," said Brian Anderson, who helped the cause with two hits, two runs and two RBI. "To see Josh make a play like that is what we want. You get on top early in midweek games and that gets young guys in and gets them experience for the weekend when you might need them."
The weekend will be against Alabama in the first home SEC series. The Hogs enter on a three-game winning streak and maybe with a little confidence, most notably with Eric Fisher. The lanky first baseman slapped four hits with a walk in his five at bats, two of them shots into the gap in left. He raised his average to .242.
"It's crucial to get Eric going in the middle of the lineup," Anderson said. "To see him go the other way twice like that, a lefty covering it into left center, that will work in the SEC."
Fisher said, "You want to hit the ball the other way. To wait and stay back, helps your confidence. It's always nice to get hits and get some confidence. I am definitely seeing it better, waiting to take it the other way, let the ball get a little deeper and not pulling off of it."
Tyler Spoon also had two hits, two runs and two RBI. Clark Eagan added two hits and two runs hitting in front of Anderson, Spoon and Fisher with Joe Serrano out. Van Horn said Serrano, sidelined with an ankle sprain, could have played Wednesday and should be available for the weekend series with Alabama.
The Hogs might still be without shortstop Brett McAfee, also out for the last five games. He's got a bad back and is doubtful for the weekend. Michael Bernal and Bobby Wernes have split time at short.
Van Horn said he's not set on the Sunday starter against Alabama, but Jalen Beeks will go on Friday and Trey Killian on Saturday. Chris Oliver could start Sunday, if he isn't used out of the bullpen in a save situation earlier in the weekend.
"We may TBA it for Sunday," Van Horn said. "We could use Oliver earlier if it helps us pick up a win."
Van Horn mentioned the possibility of playing three against Mississippi Valley next week to make up for a lost game earlier this season. The Hogs are scheduled for one in Fayetteville on Tuesday and one in North Little Rock on Wednesday. They may play an extra game at Baum on Tuesday.
Arkansas Cruises Past Grambling, 8-0
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