It was a walk in the park for Gonzaga. And, it was just plain ugly from Dave Van Horn's post in the Arkansas dugout.
Van Horn has been a regular in the NCAA tournament as much as anything through the years because of strike throwers on the mound. Well, at least in the midweek games, that seems like a challenge for the Arkansas pitching staff. As he said in disbelief afterwards, "We don't walk people."
After giving up six walks in a 6-2 loss on Tuesday, Arkansas pitchers walked 13 Gonzaga batters in a 15-5 loss Wednesday at Baum Stadium.
Arkansas led 3-2 after five innings, but gave up five runs in the seventh and seven in the ninth with a total collapse from the bullpen.
"It was one of the ugliest games I've ever been a part of. Especially from about the fourth or fifth inning on," Van Horn said. "Walked 13, hit four. Two-hundred-plus pitches, had to be."
Seven Arkansas pitchers threw 204 pitches, only 105 for strikes. Starter Cannon Chadwick walked five in three innings. Jackson Lowery walked one in three innings. Parker Sanburn walked one and threw two pitches to the screen without recording an out. Lance Phillips walked three while recording two outs. Josh Alberius walked one, recording one out. Jonnah Patten walked one while recording four outs. Kyle Pate walked two -- both with the bases loaded -- while recording the last two outs.
The Hogs were not much better on defense, committing three errors. There were two passed balls.
There was even an ugly moment at the plate when Andrew Benintendi blasted a two-run homer in the eighth. He had a demonstrative bat flip as his drive sailed far over the Gonzaga bullpen in right. The Zags, up 8-3 at the time, didn't like it, but there was no sign of retaliation.
The Zags (9-8) did not issue any free passes. Starter Tyler Frost went seven innings, filling up the strike zone with his 95 pitches.
Arkansas (9-5) lost for the third straight times, all to West Coast Conference teams. The Razorbacks jump into tougher competition this weekend with a trip to defending national champ Vanderbilt. Van Horn was too busy covering the sordid details of the sweep to Gonzaga to even mention Vandy in his post-game address to his players.
"I did say we were starting league play," he said. "They know it's Vanderbilt and they will be excited to play them."
Van Horn probably be excited to get to his better pitchers. That would be starters Keaton McKinney, Trey Killian and Dominic Taccolini and reliever Zach Jackson. It's not clear who can throw strikes past those four. Van Horn admits that it's been a concern for awhile.
"We've been concerned about it since fall," Van Horn said. "I haven't seen much consistency from a lot of the pitchers. Throwing strikes enough, out of control. Just nervous.
"I don't know. But it's definitely a concern. Look what just happened. Look what happened the last two days. It's not like we got pounded offensively. We got beat because of all the free pases. You can't beat anybody walking nine, 10 a game. That's a joke."
Concerning the overall play of the team, Van Horn was disappointed in a lot of areas.
"Didn't make some plays," Van Horn said. "One base-running mistake that cost us a run. Trying to find a way to salvage a split with a pretty good club and really didn't do a very good job on either end.
"But obviously it was the pitching. Not much timely hitting. Probably should have driven in another run or two. it's disappointing when you have new players on your team and trying to give them some opportunities and they go out there and they just don't perform to what we've seen them do. Really having trouble throwing the ball over the plate and teams are just taking pitches. You get past our top five or six pitchers and the bottom falls out. It's going to be interesting in the middle of the week the rest of the year from what I can see unless we turn it around."
Van Horn was asked about the thoughts of pitching coach Dave Jorn, one of the best on the college level.
"I've never seen anything like it and he's never seen anything like it," Van Horn said. "You want to let them pitch, but when you see ball after ball, you've got to go get them. We kept trying to see if we could find someone who could throw a strike. Like I said, it was ugly."
Van Horn said the post-game was a discussion about who's on the trip.
"Obviously, it's a series I don't think I have to say a whole lot, they're going to be excited to play," Van Horn said. "Like you say, plyaing the defending national champion at their place and opening SEC play. Then you throw in that we've lost three games in a row and it hasn't been real pretty, I didn't have to say a whole lot."
Weather may impact Van Horn's starting rotation. Trey Killian pitched on Friday night last week, but Van Horn would like to hold him until Sunday.
"It may rain Friday, so maybe there is a doubleheader somewhere along the way," he said. "So if that happens, maybe I just put Trey out there in the second game of the doubleheader. I think we'll open with Keaton McKinney."
Gonzaga 15, Arkansas 5
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