With the NCAA Tournament now arriving, Arkansas is hoping it has the old Trey Killian back for good and gets back the regular season Andrew Benintendi.
Killian (2-4, 4.72) is expected to get the start on the mound when the Razorbacks (35-22) meet Oral Roberts University (41-14) Friday at noon in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in Stillwater, Okla.
He will be coming off a sparkling performance in last week’s SEC Tournament in which he retired the first 14 Tennessee batters and giving up just four hits and one run in 7 2/3 innings.
“Coach (Tony) Vitello and Coach (Dave) Jorn said that they didn’t see the Trey Killian that they saw last year and kind of challenged me last week before my outing in Hoover,” Killian said. “ I feel like I kind of got a little bit of fire back in that outing.
“It being a successful outing was good for me, too. It is building my confidence and hopefully I can carry that into this weekend.”
Killian was 4-9 with a 2.30 ERA in 94 innings while allowing two runs or less in 10 starts last season.
He held hitters to a .222 average in 2014 as opposed .285 this season, but his record was not good due to lack of run support.
Killian is hoping to set the tone for the regional, which also includes top-seeded Oklahoma State and fourth-seeded St. John’s.
“It’s just how it kind of is every weekend,” Killian said. “I try to set the tone for the team and give us a chance to win and keep us in the ballgame.
“Getting that first win in a regional is probably the biggest thing, the most important thing at least so I am just going to go out there and compete and try to set the tone and get us the first win.”
Benintendi was outstanding during the regular season as he led the SEC with in batting average (.415), home runs (17), on base percentage (.511) and total bases (145) while leading the country in slugging percentage (.771).
His 51 RBIs were five shy of leading the SEC and making him the league’s triple crown winner and he was the only player in school history to have at least 15 home runs and 20 stolen bases in a season.
But he was only 1-of-14 in the SEC Tournament with one homer and one RBI while stranding 10 runners on base in his team’s four games.
Benintendi was not available for comment on Monday, but Razorback outfielder Tyler Spoon expects his teammate to be fine in the regionals.
He’ll be fine,” Spoon said. “He is just such a polished hitter. He is very experienced, beyond his years really. He had a tough tournament. His one hit was a bomb though and he is just kind of a spark plug if we need that. That home run also sparked that come from behind win against Florida.
“Tough tournament, but he is going to be fine and he is going to hit well.”
Arkansas outfielder Joe Serrano notes that the whole team struggled at the plate in the SEC Tournament, but he is views it as a learning experience.
“I think our team got great practice facing some top arms in the SEC and I think that looking back on it now, we are going to use those games as an assistance to our regional,” Serrano said.
“I believe that if we can stay in and win and compete against the arms that we face that we will do pretty well in the regional.
“All you can do is play your hardest and if you win, you win, and if you lose, you lose.”
Spoon also believes that Arkansas will bounce back this weekend and look more like a team with a .289 team batting average.
“We may not have hit well, but it just happens,” Spoon said. “It is a tough park to hit in for one. Being on the road, we might have been a little tired or whatever, but we are ready. We are going to put some work in this week and get ready for that regional and that first game.”
Spoon is happy to be playing closer to home than last season’s regional in Virginia.
“It is kind of awesome,” Spoon said. “Obviously after going to Virginia last year, it is kind of nice to be close to home. Looks like we are going to get some fans there and it should be a fun Regional.”
Killian echoed that sentiment.
“I think we are all excited, especially Zach Jackson,” Killian said of his teammate from the Stillwater area. “He wants to go over there and pitch against Oklahoma State. So it will be fun.”
Killian, Benintendi Look To Power Razorbacks
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