Jacob Stone was supposed to be the closer, but Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn decided a start was needed Tuesday night. It may have been just what the doctor ordered for the back end of the bullpen.
Stone pitched five strong innings to help Arkansas (17-15) coast to an 8-1 victory over Mississippi Valley State (6-20-1) before 2,012 at Baum Stadium. It came just three days after Stone failed to do anything out in a walk-off loss at Auburn.
"We all know what Jacob can do," Van Horn said. "The number one thing, we needed to get him some confidence. We needed him to prove to himself that he can do it. He needs to be out there and we want to get him back out there with a game on the line, maybe this weekend."
Stone was stunned when he got a text from pitching coach Dave Jorn earlier in the day.
"I was just up on campus," Stone said. "I figured some other guys were in line to get a start."
It was his first start since fall ball two years ago.
"I think the actual real game that I started was in high school," Stone said. "But it felt really good. I needed to get out there and rebound after Saturday. It was an embarrassment for me and to our team anytime you get walked off."
Stone worked out of a mini jam in the first, getting a pick-off after the Delta Devils started the game with a walk and a single. It was smooth sailing for the next four innings as Stone threw 65 pitches in his five innings, allowing just the first inning single.
"All I did was establish the fast ball, on both sides of the plate," Stone said. "I got ground ball outs."
It helped that the Hogs jumped on MVSU starter Tyler Case, the staff ace, for five runs in the first two innings. Tyler Spoon paced the 11-hit UA attack with four hits, including his team leading 13th double. He scored twice and drove in two runs. Cullen Gassaway added two hits, including a two-run homer in the fifth.
Reliever Josh Alberius allowed a solo homer in the sixth for the only run to the visitors. He pitched three innings, needing just 38 pitches. Kyle Pate, the staff's only lefty, pitched the ninth.
"Alberius did what he does, throws strikes," Van Horn said. "That was first time for Pate in awhile. He pitched like Kyle Pate should. He only needed 10 pitches and he might get back out there again tomorrow for a lefthanded batter and get to where we can use him on the weekend."
Spoon raised his average to .355. Van Horn said it was a series of quality at bats.
"Tyler had a really good approach against a finesse pitcher," Van Horn said. "He had a real quiet approach and his bat looked quick."
Van Horn said it was good to get a comfortable victory after a series of "stressful" games, including three nailbiters at Auburn.
"It was a solid game," he said."First, it was good to get Jacob back out there and get him loosened up. After that first inning, he seemed to gain a little bit of confidence. We had a pretty good night.
"We decided we'd start Stone and just let him pitch. First off, we know he's better than he's been showing. We knew he felt bad after what happened last weekend. We wanted to let him throw 60 or 70 pitches. He seemed to be under better control."
Stone admitted the early lead helped.
"It definitely put my heart at ease," he said. "I kinda knew I was going to pitch for that length of time."
And, he's ready to go right back to the bullpen.
"I'm not sure I'll ever start again," Stone said.
As far as the control issues in his last outing, Stone said it's about slowing down.
"My problems are all to my arm side," he said. "I just get too quick to the plate."
Van Horn said the Hogs will go with James Teague against the Delta Devils in the 3:05 p.m. start Wednesday.
Arkansas 8, Mississippi Valley State 1
Hawgs Daily Top Stories
Longhorns Preview Oklahoma StateTexas offensive players discuss the Longhorns' upcoming game at Oklahoma State to kickoff Big 12 Conference play.
Horns DigestMonday at 6:21 PM
Louisiana CB 'Real Close' to a DecisionIt may not be too long before one of the top cornerbacks in Louisiana makes his decision. Four schools are high on his list and you can get the latest here...
Scout FootballMonday at 6:15 AM
JC defensive back talks ISU official visitOver the weekend, Iowa State played host to one of their top 2017 targets in the current recruiting cycle in Paramount, CA three-star JUCO CB Keisean Nixon. This visit for the…
AllCyclonesSunday at 6:34 PM
TCU vs Iowa State primerAfter falling in double-overtime to Arkansas, TCU looks to get back to their winning ways against Iowa State.
Horned Frog Insider09/15/2016