FAYETTEVILLE – Since a slow start to the season, Luke Bonfield has been on a tear for Arkansas and he was finally recognized for it Monday.
The senior left fielder from New Jersey was named the SEC’s Player of the Week after going 8 for 20 (.400) with two home runs and 11 RBIs in one game against Missouri State and three against Georgia.
Bonfield admitted the award was cool, but was more excited about the Razorbacks’ 4-0 record in those games. However, second baseman Carson Shaddy didn’t shy away from praising him.
“He came through in every situation we needed him to,” Shaddy said. “There’s no one who deserves it more. That kid works his butt off.”
He is the first Arkansas player to do win the award since Michael Bernal was a co-player of the week following the Razorbacks’ trip to Houston early last season.
Against Georgia on Friday, Bonfield sparked Arkansas’ struggling offense when he hit a go-ahead two-run home run in the seventh inning.
It was his second homer in as many games and seventh of the season, which ranks fourth on the team but would be tied for second or better on any other team in the conference.
Bonfield – who is one of just two Arkansas players to start every game this season – credits head coach Dave Van Horn for sticking with him despite starting the season just 5 for 30 (.167) through the Razorbacks’ first seven games.
“He kind of got on me after the first game at Louisiana Tech,” Bonfield said. “That’s kind of what I needed, rather than feel sorry for myself, kind of like a kick in the butt.”
The message from Van Horn was simple: Hey, you’re hitting in the 3-hole. There’s a reason. This is your third year here. You’re a feared hitter. Go out there and take some chances every now and then. Attack something.
It didn’t take long for the talk to pay off.
In the very next game, he went 2 for 4 with a double and home run, helping Arkansas rally back from an early 10-1 deficit to beat the Bulldogs and avoid back-to-back losses.
Including that game, Bonfield is hitting .371 with 14 extra-base hits and 30 RBIs since Van Horn’s “kick in the butt.” His season batting average has risen to .329, which is third on the team among regular starters.
“I just felt like Luke was being a little passive at the plate,” Van Horn said. “We know how good of a hitter he is. We’ve seen him hit every day.”
Bonfield isn’t the only player to overcome a slow start for the Razorbacks.
First baseman Chad Spanberger has been crushing the ball since the Missouri series – slugging .791 over the last 15 games – and designated hitter Eric Cole has clawed his way back up to a respectable .257 batting average over the last three weeks. (Cole had been hitting just .176 before the Alabama series.)
“Baseball’s a funny sport,” Bonfield said. “Football and basketball are more middle ground and baseball, there’s more highs and lows.
“You’ve got to lean on your teammates, lean on your coaches to get you out of that little run.”