It's difficult to say what Dave Van Horn liked best in Arkansas' 2-1 victory over Loyola Marymount, getting Trey Killian back in a starting role or Zach Jackson in the bullpen.
Killian dazzled in his first action of the season, allowing one run in 3 2/3 innings. The junior ace had not pitched after coming home from a summer tour with Team USA, nervous with elbow issues.
With snow and ice still dotting corners of Baum Stadium, attendance was just 1,642. But temperatures were close to 50 by game's end.
It was like the old Killian for 59 pitches against LMU's Lions. Van Horn had put Killian on a pitch count of 60 and it came out to 42 strikes.
Zach Jackson entered with two outs in the fourth after Killian's wild pickoff throw to second helped the Lions plate their only run. Jackson had struggled in his first three starts, putting him back in the bullpen.
But it was a different Jackson this time, allowing just one hit with one walk. He threw 85 pitches, 52 for strikes. He did work a lot of full counts, but generally it was after getting ahead.
"I feel like I can start, but baseball is such a mental game," Jackson said. "It felt great today. I felt like I was more in control."
Perhaps it was just a matter of getting Killian back to settle down Jackson.
"It's huge," Jackson said. "We know Trey is a guy who can battle on Friday night. It's unbelievable to have him back. It can take us to another level."
The Hogs (8-2) needed lights out pitching. They ran themselves out of three innings with strikeout double plays on missed bunts and pick off plays. They eventually manufactured two runs in the sixth, with a pair of hit-and-run fielder's choice. Bobby Wernes plated the game winner, a slice single to right that plated Tyler Spoon.
"We knew the rightfielder was playing shallow, but we were going to take a chance with two outs," Van Horn said. "He made a good throw, but Tyler knocked the ball loose."
Andrew Benintendi scored the first run when the catcher threw a ball into left field after a wild pitch and joined Michael Bernal with two hits.
Loyola Marymount (8-5) got good pitching from starter Colin Wellmon and shutout relief from Michael Silva.
"It was a great job by our pitchers," Van Horn said. "We'd been struggling a little on the mound. It hadn't shown up in the stats, but we had too many walks.
"We made three base running mistakes. We got picked off and we missed bunts."
Clark Eagan missed three bunt attempts and was picked off. Carson Shaddy and Benintendi also got picked off.
"You tell me what they were thinking, I don't know," Van Horn said. "Eagan is struggling. He's probably our best bunter. Shaddy got picked off by crossing over before the bunt gets down. That's an easy play for the catcher.
"Our pitchers picked us up because we didn't play well. I feel fortunate to win. Our pitchers did a great job."
Van Horn said Jackson wasn't told if he was pitching or not.
"We just told him to be ready," Van Horn said. "But he was going to be first in after Trey. We were hoping we could get by with two pitchers and we did.
"It's great to see Trey go out there and do that. He had a smile on his face in the dugout. I'm not sure what his velocity was, but we didn't want him to max out. He's got more in the tank. It all looked easy for him."
Killian said, "I was throwing strikes, both sides of the plate. I don't think I threw my first ball until the second inning. I had a lot of adrenalin. It was good to be back."
Concerning Jackson's performance, Killian said, "It was good for him and good for the team. We needed that Zach Jackson. We needed him on the right track. We know he's capable of shutting teams down."
Loyola Marymount coach Jason Gill was pleased with Welmon's performance, but noted the chilly conditions probably limited his number of pitches to 96. Did that get him out of the game earlier than normal?
"I think it did with Colin," Gill said. "I don’t think he would have been out that quick if it was a little warmer. I don’t think people realize how much energy it takes to pitch in a game like this. And he had to pitch out of some jams and make some stressful pitches."
There was a tip of the cap to the Arkansas pitching, too.
"We're playing on Friday, at Arkansas," Gill said. "They’re a pretty good team and have pretty good pitching. They have Colin Welmon’s on their team, too, and when you’re playing championship level baseball, and it’s a 2-1 game, the little things will matter.
"We throw a ball away down the left field line and throw a ball to the plate and don’t hang on to it and those are separators in the game when you’re playing really good teams. [Arkansas] didn’t make a lot of mistakes.
"It was just a really good college baseball game and they did a couple of extra things to win it."
Arkansas and LMU meet again at 3:05 p.m. Saturday. The finale is scheduled for 12:35 p.m. Sunday.
Arkansas 2, Loyola Marymount 1
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