The weekend rotation stays the same for the Arkansas baseball team. It will be Dominic Tacollini on Friday, Blaine Knight on Saturday and Keaton McKinney on Sunday when the Razorbacks play host to Eastern Illinois.
Coach Dave Van Horn confirmed that much after the 3-2 loss to Louisiana Tech on Wednesday that left the Hogs 8-1. He's been encouraged by the bullpen work by Knight and McKinney in the wake of poor starts last weekend in Houston.
McKinney is coming off surgery to his hip in the summer. The sophomore righthander is trying to regain the form that made him the weekend's best bet for a win by the SEC stretch run. He's been unable to locate his fast ball so far this season.
Van Horn said there are no arm trouble and his legs are strong. It's just rust. He didn't pitch during the summer or fall. Teammates think they'll see the old McKinney soon.
“I think he'll bounce back,” said Carson Shaddy, sophomore third baseman. “He has an attitude about him. He knows he didn't throw well in Houston. There is no one on this team I trust as much as Keaton.”
Reliever Cannon Chadwick added, “Keaton is working hard. We know he'll be back throwing well soon.”
There were some interesting takeaways from the Louisiana Tech loss. Sophomore outfielder Chad Spanberger got his first action of the season after battling back from a rib injury. He stranded runners in key situations in an 0-for-4 day as designated hitter.
Afterwards Van Horn was asked if he thought about lifting him for a righthander when the lefty hitting Spanberger came up late in the game. His answer explained how much maybe we don't know about the game that Van Horn does.
“What you may not have known is that lefties were hitting .300 against that lefthander,” Van Horn said. “Righthanders were hitting just .096. Maybe I should have started more lefties. What he was doing is getting the righthanders out with the changeup. The lefties see it better. But I had that information.
“Spanberger got a fast ball to start the at bat you are talking about and didn't swing at it. He fouled off a couple of good pitches before he swung through a pitch.”
Van Horn said he was “disappointed” to lose, but noted the obvious, “You are not going to win them all. We had our chances. The part you don't like is that maybe there were a couple of situations late when we could have had a better at bat.”
Van Horn was pleased with his pitching for the most part.
“They gave us a chance,” he said. “Cannon Chadwick did well. Teague pitched pretty well. He gave up a double and a wild pitch, but that's about it. They kept us in it and a chance to come back at the plate. We just didn't get the big hit and they did.
“I thought our defense was OK. There was the ball that Shaddy didn't catch, the foul ball near the seats. Except for that, we made the plays.”
First pitch on Friday against Eastern Illinois is at 3:05 p.m. The Panthers enter at 0-8 after getting swept at Central Arkansas in their last four games. The last two losses were by one run.
“Really, I don't know too much about them,” Van Horn said. “Maybe they've over scheduled a bit.”
The other EIU losses have been to Southern Mississippi and Vanderbilt.