Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn wanted to keep the pitch counts low to get ready for a quick turnaround this weekend and that proved not to be a problem in a three-game sweep of Eastern Illinois concluded with a 7-0 victory Tuesday afternoon at Baum Stadium.
The Hogs gave up only two runs in the sweep of the Panthers, the replacement for California when bad weather rolled in last week. Cal was to have played the Hogs single games Thursday through Sunday. Instead, EIU rolled into town and waited two days before playing a doubleheader on Monday, then an early game Tuesday before a chilled crowd of 278. The Hogs had gone eight days without a game -- the longest inactive stretch since 1984 -- since losing to Maryland in Mobile, Ala.
Freshman righthander Keaton McKinney (1-0) was solid in his third straight outing and was credited with the victory after allowing one hit over the first four innings. His pitch count was at 67 when Van Horn turned it over to the bullpen, calling on five more hurlers to throw one inning each. None needed over 15 pitches.
Parker Sanburn was the first reliever, needing only eight pitches. Jonnah Patten, Lance Phillips, Kyle Pate and Cannon Chadwick also were solid. Pate, the lone lefty on the UA staff, had his most effective outing.
The Hogs backed the pitching with another error-less performance in the field and the offense produced nine hits, three by late sub Carson Shaddy and two from Andrew Bentendi. Bentendi lined a solo homer into the teeth of a 25 mph south breeze.
Van Horn praised Shaddy, noting the Fayetteville product has been among the two most improved Razorbacks, along with third baseman Bobby Wernes. Shaddy is batting .526. Wernes leads the regulars at .444.
"I went up to Shaddy about 20 minutes before the game and told him he was in right field," Van Horn said. "Tyler Spoon wasn't feeling well. We sent him to the doctor and thankfully it's not the flu.
"I've said Shaddy and Wernes are the two most improved. He's just relaxed this year. I told his parents -- and I played middle infield with his daddy way back when here -- that he was playing well."
Shaddy said it's just a case of letting the game come to him.
"It's slowed down," Shaddy said. "I just want to help the team win. It's about having a better approach at the plate."
McKinney was in trouble only in the first inning when two runners made it into scoring position. He toiled then, throwing 32 pitches. But it was lots of strikes and ground outs after that.
Van Horn didn't want McKinney to throw a big pitch count because they'll need him to pitch on short rest this weekend when Top 25 foe Loyola comes to town. They'll play the first game at 3:05 p.m. Friday, again at 3:05 Saturday and the finale at 1:05 p.m. Sunday.
It's likely that junior Trey Killian, the lone returnee from the weekend rotation, gets his first start on Friday. He'll be on a low pitch count, possibly under 40. Killian is coming back from a sore elbow that shelved him on a Team USA tour in the summer and all of fall ball.
Van Horn said Zach Jackson would probably go to the bullpen with Dominic Taccolini and McKinney getting the other starts behind Killian.
"We had to keep our pitch counts down in these three games and they'll all be pitching on short rest on the weekend," Van Horn said. "We'll probably do what we did today some, give guys one inning."
Van Horn liked what he saw of Pate.
"He was down in the zone," Van Horn said. "He hung one breaker, but that was it. He came back with some breakers down. He was pretty good."
Hogs Thump Panthers, 7-0
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