Hogs sweep North Dakota
Arkansas looked dominant Saturday at Baum Stadium.
The Razorbacks' offense recorded 30 hits and its pitching staff had 26 strikeouts in a doubleheader sweep of North Dakota. Arkansas won the first game 13-2 and the second game 12-1 to sweep the three-game series.
"You never plan on scoring that many runs," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "If you get to double-digits, that's great. The wind was blowing out, good temperatures and the hitters did a good job.
"We're not patting ourselves on the back right now. We just did what we needed to do."
Starting pitchers Dominic Taccolini and Zach Jackson each recorded eight strikeouts to help set the tone for the Razorbacks (3-0). Taccolini, who pitched six strong innings and retired 11 straight batters at one point in the first game, while Jackson logged four innings in the finale.
Arkansas recorded 13 strikeouts in all three weekend games for a total of 39.
The pitchers were picked up by an offense that feasted on the inexperienced North Dakota bullpen for a second consecutive day. Arkansas had 11 extra-base hits, including four home runs, in the first game of the doubleheader.
"It's nice whenever we're putting up runs like that," Taccolini said. "You've just got to go out there and throw strikes and you feel pretty confident, especially with our defense behind us."
The Razorbacks didn't commit any errors during the series, while North Dakota had seven errors. Van Horn said in the preseason he expected Arkansas' defense to be better early in the season after being able to utilize a new indoor facility in the off-season.
"You don’t expect to go three games without an error," Van Horn said. "We played pretty good defense. We did a good job making good plays."
Bobby Wernes' two-run triple in the second inning gave the Razorbacks a lead that was never in jeopardy in the first game. Wernes added a second RBI triple in the eighth inning to become the first Arkansas player since 2003 to have multiple triples in one game. Wernes also made a couple of nice plays from his post at third base, defensively.
"Bobby made good plays all weekend at third," Van Horn said. "Defensively, he was all over."
The Razorbacks extended the lead to 4-0 in the fourth inning. Andrew Benintendi led off the inning with a solo home run to right field and Rick Nomura had an inside the park home run two at-bats later.
Nomura hit a fly ball that the North Dakota center fielder misread. A throw to the plate was on time but bobbled by catcher Brett Harrison. North Dakota pulled within 4-2 on a Jeff Campbell's two-run home run in the sixth inning, but the Razorbacks responded with a six-run inning in the bottom of the sixth.
Arkansas hit three consecutive doubles to begin the sixth inning and Brett McAfee added a solo home run. Carson Shaddy hit a solo home run in the seventh to extend the Razorbacks' lead to 11-2.
The offense continued to click in the series finale. Like in the first game of the doubleheader, the Razorbacks never trailed after Tyler Spoon's RBI double gave Arkansas a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.
North Dakota tied the game on Luis Calvo's single in the top of the fourth inning, but the Razorbacks responded with three runs in the bottom of the inning to take the lead for good. Michael Bernal, Tucker Pennell and Clark Eagan each had RBIs in the inning.
Eagan added a two-run single in the sixth inning and Chad Spanberger followed with a three-run triple to extend the lead to 10-1. Spanberger, a freshman, finished 3-for-5 at the plate and had four RBIs in his first game as designated hitter.
"I think some guys gained some experience and confidence," Van Horn said, "and they’ll hopefully step it up next weekend."
Eagan had the best weekend of all for an Arkansas offense that scored 36 runs and recorded 18 extra-base hits. The sophomore finished 9-for-14 with seven RBIs.
The Razorbacks figure to be tested more next weekend when they travel to Mobile, Alabama, for three games on the campus of South Alabama University. Arkansas will play Central Florida, South Alabama and Maryland.
South Alabama won a three-game series at Arkansas last season by sweeping a Saturday doubleheader. Maryland was ranked No. 16 and Central Florida No. 22 in the preseason.
"We have our hands full next weekend playing a couple ranked teams and the home team in their ballpark," Van Horn said.
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