Arkansas sophomore third baseman Carson Shaddy doesn't look like your typical power hitter, but balls are flying out of the yard off his bat this season.
Shaddy (5-11, 185) launched his SEC-leading fifth homer while Grant Koch touched off his first round-tripper of the season as the No. 22 Razorbacks downed winless Eastern Illinois 5-2 Friday afternoon before 6,187 fans at Baum Stadium.
Arkansas starting pitcher Dominic Taccolini (3-0) got the win on the mound as the Razorbacks extended their errorless game streak to six and moved to 9-1 with the win while the visitors dropped to 0-9.
“It was actually a very well-played game,” Razorback head coach Dave Van Horn said of a contest where his team-out hit its foe 8-7. “I thought Eastern Illinois played extremely well.
“Their starting pitcher (Matt Wivinis) was a strike thrower, a 90 mile an hour guy with a slider and he didn’t make too many mistakes. When he did we got a good swing on it.”
That certainly happened in the third when both Koch and Shaddy drove balls over the left field wall with Shaddy’s blast plating a pair and putting Arkansas up 3-0.
“I really haven’t been trying to do anything like that, I am just trying to hit singles and doubles and good things have happened,” Shaddy said. “I am very excited. It’s an honor, but at the same time I really need to think about the long run and not focus too much on it and that is what I am going to do.
“I am going to treat every day like it is opening day.”
Van Horn is happy to see the early unexpected results from Shaddy, the former Fayetteville High star who had just five homers his senior season of high school baseball.
“He has shown the ability to hit the ball out of the park in batting practice, but I have other kids who do that all the time, too,” Van Horn said. “To be able to take it to the game is a different thing.
“…Did I expect him to have five home runs after what 10 games? No, but I figured he would hit seven or eight home runs throughout the season.
“Obviously he is well ahead of that pace and if he hits home runs that is great. But I just want him to make contact and drive in runs.”
Taccolini picked up his third win in as many outings as he pitched five innings while allowing four hits and two runs, fanning five and walking one.
“He was just peppering the zone, both sides of the plate, spinning the breaking ball up there and getting some ground balls,” Van Horn said. “He had a couple of quick innings and then went out and it didn’t go good in the fourth and he had to throw a lot more pitches than he should.
“He got through the inning, but that would have been the inning to really get us back in the dugout because we had scored three runs and took the lead. He went out and battled a little bit and his pitch count got up so we let him get through the fifth and he was at 70-something pitches and they had a few lefties up so we decided to go with the left hander.”
That would be Jordan Rodriguez, who was then followed to the mound by Josh Alberius and Kacey Murphy before Zach Jackson closed things out while getting the final two outs for his third save of the season.
“I thought our bullpen did a tremendous job of holding the lead there and we went to some different guys trying to get them acclimated to their roles a little bit,” Van Horn said
Wivinis took the loss for Eastern Illinois as he allowed four runs in four inning, walked three and fanned three.
Eastern Illinois cut it to 3-2 against Taccolini in a fourth inning that began when Dave Toppel singling and Cale Hennaman following with a walk.
Hunter Morris, who was 0-for-22 for the season going into his second at-bat of the day, roped a two-out RBI single and Nick Maton’s blooper got down to score the other run.
Arkansas pushed its lead to 4-2 in the fifth when Eric Cole singled and rode home on Clark Eagan’s single, but the Razorbacks failed to capitalize after having runners at second and third with one out.
That advantage became 5-2 in the sixth as Michael Bernal, Koch and Eric Cole all singled with the latter’s bringing home a run.
Van Horn was also obviously pleased with his team’s six straight games without an error, but wanted to keep that quiet.
“Why did you have to bring that up?” Van Horn asked. “I didn’t even know that…They have been solid.”
The two teams will meet again Saturday at 12:05 p.m. in the second game of a three-game weekend series.
Arkansas will throw freshman Blaine Knight.