Sluggish Start Doesn't Hinder Diamond Hogs

FAYETTEVILLE -- It wasn't the Mona Lisa but Arkansas painted a good enough picture to put a lot of genuine smiles on the faces of its fans.

After the No. 18 Razorbacks crushed Eastern Illinois 17-2 on a sunny but windy day in Baum Stadium, 2,447 fans went home happy again.

It took a little longer for Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn to even crack a smile.

"At the beginning of the game, I thought we got complacent, weren't really aggressive," Van Horn said. "That was a little disappointing but we kicked it into gear.

"I told them, 'We can't wait around that long.' Give their pitcher (starter Kyle Widegren) credit, he kept us off-balance, he threw a lot of good pitches off-speed and we didn't adjust real well.

"Finally we did.

"Bottom line, we did score a lot of runs and swung the bats from about the fifth inning on."

Arkansas wound up with a season high in runs and hits (18) and won its ninth-straight game to improve to 14-1.

But believe it or not, it took awhile. This thing was tied at 2-2 in the fourth inning.

"Finally, we got it going," Van Horn said.

Arkansas flirted with turning this one into a laughter early in the sixth inning.

Well, more than flirted.

Leading 5-2, Scott Hode started things with a single up the middle of the infield. Craig Gentry and Scott Bridges followed with perfect bunts which they turned into infield hits to load the bases with no out.

Razorbacks center fielder Casey Rowlett following by driving in Hode with a sacrifice fly to left.

Then, on a 1-0 pitch, Arkansas left fielder Jake Dugger hit a monster three-run home run to right field into the teeth of a healthy cross wind to lift the Razorbacks ahead 9-2.

Pinch-hitter Brock Bond added a two-run double -- it was the first hit of his Arkansas career -- and Brian Walker smashed a two-run homer to right, also into the teeth of that wind, to push the Arkansas in front 13-2.

Walker's blast was never in doubt after it left his bat.

"I'm been struggling at the plate all year so we went back to some of the things I did in the fall," Walker said. "I got a good pitch and put a good swing on it."

Walker went 2-for-5 with 3 RBIs and 2 runs scored.

In that eight-run sixth inning, Arkansas had seven consecutive hits, and nine altogether. Twelve players came to the plate in the inning.

"The big inning was started with a walk and a couple of really nice bunts ... got to see a little of our speed a little bit," Van Horn said. "Then we punch together a few hits here and there."

Meanwhile Razorbacks freshman Nick Schmidt continued to audition to become a Friday starter when the Southeastern Conference schedule begins next weekend at South Carolina.

Schmidt did a blue-collar job, throwing 95 pitches in 6 1/3 innings. He gave up 5 hits, 2 runs, 2 hits and struck out 4.

"I hope I get to start next weekend, I want to get the ball and help my team win," Schmidt said. "When I came here, I didn't want to sit on the bench my freshman year. I had a better feel out there today than last week when I started."

Schmidt was relieved by Devon Collis who worked 2 2/3 innings, allowing 1 hit and getting 2 strikeouts on 38 pitches.

Was Schmidt's effort good enough?

"We're not sure whether we're going to start him down there, or if we're going to start one of the other guys," Van Horn said. "We're going to look at it and figure it out.

"I thought Devon Collis did a good job. That was the guy we thought we were getting. That's the best he's done. He pitched with a lot of confidence."

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