State of the Hogs: Killian Back

Trey Killian was the inning killer for the Arkansas baseball team last season. The cover boy of the 2015 media guide is finally ready for his first outing of the season. He's scheduled to start the Friday matchup with Loyola Marymount.

Trey Killian is one of two players on the front cover of the Arkansas media guide. It was an easy choice. The junior righthander led the SEC with four complete games last season, all against eventual NCAA tournament teams.

Killian led the Razorbacks with 94 innings pitched, holding opposing batters to a .222 average. He made 14 starts with a solid 2.30 ERA.

But about the only way you were going to see Killian over the first three weekends of the college baseball season was if you had seats beyond the wall in left field. The only action for the Norfork product – via Mountain Home High School – was in the bullpen as Killian built his arm strength after resting a sore elbow for the previous eight months.

All of that should change when Arkansas plays host to Loyola Marymount on Friday afternoon to start the last weekend before SEC play. Game time is 3:05 p.m.

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said all signs point to Killian getting the ball for his first start after a solid bullpen outing on Monday.

“Trey's bullpens have been good,” Van Horn said Tuesday after the Hogs completed a three-game sweep of Eastern Illinois to improve to 7-2.

“Coach (Dave) Jorn says all of them have been good except one. He's shown a lot of command of his fast ball.”

There are no signs of the elbow tendinitis that shut down Killian in the middle of a summer tour with Team USA. He missed the Cuba swing of the trip, then sat out all of fall ball. He was behind on his throwing when he came back to campus in January after the Christmas break. Jorn, the pitching coach, put the breaks on Killian until there was proof that everything was okay.

There have been some frowns about that around the Arkansas baseball offices, although no one is saying anything for the record. It's clear that Killian was scared of that elbow. He admits there were worries in the fall.

“I feel a lot better than I did in the fall,” he said. “I think I'm ready to go. Coach Jorn talked to me about starting Friday. I'm excited.

“I felt a little timid in the fall. I was scared of the arm issue.

“But I'm sick of missing games. I talked to Coach Jorn (about speeding up the process) and they all know I want to get back out there.

“I'll be on a limited pitch count. I feel good about where I'm at. I've been on a throwing program for the last couple of weeks with no problems.”

Van Horn said the idea is to get Killian somewhere around 40 pitches against LMU, then a little more the following week when the Hogs open SEC play at Vanderbilt. A proven striken thrower, that might get him three or four innings on Friday. He'll stretch out a bit at Nashville, if all is well.

It's just what the Hogs ache for in the pitching rotation. It will allow sophomore Zach Jackson to return to the bullpen and the middle relief role that was so good last year ahead of closer Jacob Stone. Van Horn said after a 1-2 trip to Mobile in the second week of the season that the staff would be solid when Killian returned.

It wasn't much fun for Killian to watch the Hogs come up just short in their pitching on that trip.

“We just had a lot of growing to do,” Killian said. “We are coming around. We are throwing more strikes.

“Our offense is awesome. I can't wait to get back out there so our offense can score some runs for me.”

That wasn't meant as anything but a compliment to the 2015 batters. But you only have to look back to Killian's 4-9 record of last year when he sometimes went the distance with zero or maybe one run as support.

Killian's career record is only 7-12, but he's always been an inning killer. That's what the Hogs hope for coming soon. But first, it will be a short outing to get his arm back in shape.

“We know we'll have to go into the bullpen in the first game,” Van Horn said. “We might do it just like (on Tuesday against EIU). We can use a lot of guys.

“But if we are going to use Trey, it's going to be with a start. That's the plan right now.”

Killian can't wait.

“I'm excited,” he said. “I'm feeling great.”

That's just the news the Hogs have been waiting to hear, that the cover boy is back.

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