Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn expects solid frontline pitching when the 2016 season opens next February, but if the Razorbacks must develop an inexperienced bullpen to compete for another trip to the College World Series.
The Diamond Hogs' relievers took a step toward that Monday with an impressive showing in a scrimmage at Baum Stadium. Arkansas' bullpen allowed only one run in 10 1/3 combined innings of the first scrimmage of the Razorbacks' fall intrasquad series.
Arkansas is scheduled to play Game 2 on Wednesday at 2:05 p.m. Scrimmages are open to the public free of charge.
After pitching limited innings this fall, junior Zach Jackson picked up where he left off last spring. Jackson recorded a four-out save to give the Red team a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
The right-hander worked around a leadoff single in the ninth inning. He struck out Chad Spanberger and Jake Arledge, the White team's three- and four-hole hitters, to end the game.
"(The bullpen) is a lot better than people expected it to be," Jackson said. "They adapt well, listen well and (newcomers) have come in here and filled up the zone, which is something we struggled with a lot last year. There were some walks today, but that group as a whole is going to contribute on the mound."
Jackson came on after Hunter Hart and Cannon Chadwick pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings for the Red team. Hart, a sophomore right-hander who transferred to the Razorbacks from a junior college during the off-season, was especially sharp, striking out three and not allowing a base runner in two innings of work.
Hart was a 37th round draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 2014.
"He threw real well," Van Horn said. "He's got a late-breaking slider, kind of in between pitch; it's not a true slider, but not a curveball either.
"He won 10 games last year in junior college and is still a little bit raw pitcher....He's had some good outings this fall."
Cullen Gassaway and Jack Benninghoff had RBIs in the third inning to give the Red team the lead. Luke Bonfield added an RBI single in the fourth inning to extend the lead to 5-3.
Gassaway and Bonfield each had three hits.
Projected starting first baseman Chad Spanberger hit a towering home run over the right field bullpen to pull the White team within 5-4 in the top of the fifth inning. It was Spanberger's fourth home run during scrimmage play this fall, Van Horn said. Spanberger went 2-for-5 with two runs scored Monday.
"He's more confident because he's older and he doesn't feel like he's the new guy around here," Van Horn said. "He's very strong. The pitch he hit out of the park, he hit the bottom half of the ball and it was a fastball kind of outside. He smoked it out of here. He's got incredible power and he can light it up. It's good to see it kind of translate into the game a little bit."
Both starting pitchers struggled. Freshman Weston Rogers walked three in four innings for the Red team, while junior college transfer Jordan Rodriguez allowed six hits in 2 2/3 innings for the White team.
Returning position players Carson Shaddy (Tommy John) and Clark Eagan (shoulder) scrimmaged after undergoing off-season surgeries. Each recorded a single Monday.