Diamond Hogs Blow Away Bulldogs

FAYETTEVILLE -- Wind whipping in from right field made Arkansas' doubleheader sweep of Louisiana Tech on Friday interesting at times.

Pop-ups that started fair drifted foul and balls hammered to right would die at the warning track. It caused pitchers, the successful ones, to keep the ball down in the strike zone and hitters to change approaches during the No. 17 Razorbacks' 10-9 win in the opener and 13-2 win in the nightcap.

It was the 12th straight win in home openers for the Hogs (8-0). A school-record crowd for home openers of 4,258 attended the early game in Baum Stadium.

Arkansas' Jake Dugger got the best of the wind. After tripling over the center fielder's head on a ball that normally would have carried over the fence, he made the adjustment in his next at-bat, using the wind to drive the ball over the left-field fence for a two-run homer.

Dugger's blast, his third, proved to be the game-winner in the opener as it gave the Hogs a 10-8 lead in the sixth inning that they would not relinquish. It was his fourth game-winning hit of the season

"The whole day, I tried to back off the plate so I could hit a ball over there (to left) with the wind," said Dugger, who started his home run trot as soon as he left his bat. "I wasn't going to try to hit it into the wind. I was going to try to use the wind on my side and go with it.

"So when I hit it, I knew it was gone."

Razorbacks' hitters have become accustomed to battling through wind as they've had it blowing into their faces in all but one game this season. It has caused them to tweak their offensive philosophy. Instead of popping homers and looping doubles into the gaps, they've had to rely on line drives and ground balls through the infield for run production.

"We teach our hitters to hit line drives with back spin to get some extra carry," said Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn. "When it's windy like this, you've got to be able to stay inside the ball. You've got to be able to hit when the wind is blowing in and do something, somehow offensively."

Only one player, Louisiana Tech's Ben Tabor, had the power to successfully penetrate Friday's wind head on. He drove a solo homer down the left-field line off Hogs starter Charley Boyce to lead off the fourth inning of the opener.

It gave the Bulldogs a 5-2 lead, but Arkansas was able to even the score with three runs in the bottom of the inning highlighted by an RBI double by Brian Walker. Slicing with the wind, the ball slid past left fielder Brandon Hudson and to the wall.

Walker gave the Hogs their first lead with an RBI single in the fifth. Arkansas got another wind-aided run in the inning when a pop-up to short left field by James Ewing was misjudged. Matt Willard then drove in a run with grounder up the middle to make it 8-5.

All three Louisiana Tech hits during a three-run sixth, that tied the score at 8-all, were to left field and away from the wind.

"The wind played a huge factor," said Louisiana Tech coach Wade Simoneaux. "It effects how you call pitches and the batters you send to the plate and the approach you take at the plate. You have to change because balls that were hit into that wind, besides Tabor's homer, didn't go very far."

Ignoring the wind, Hogs starter Nick Schmidt kept the ball down in the second game as he struck out 10 while allowing two runs (one earned) on two hits in seven innings. Wind did play a role in breaking Schmidt's streak of 13 straight hitless innings, though. A high pop-up -- catchable on most days -- by Brady Bascle turned into a single when right fielder Wayne Hrozek twisted and turned before making an unsuccessful dive at the last moment.

As night fell early in Game 2, the wind began to dissipate. It finally allowed the Razorbacks to start swinging away and they did, scoring 12 of their 13 runs after the third inning.

David Hum, a mid-semester transfer who was released by Notre Dame to play this week, made an impact in his collegiate debut. Even his outs were impressive as the Little Rock native smashed the ball each time up to finish 2-for-4 in the nightcap.

With players like Hum contributing, the Hogs' offensive numbers have climbed of late. They've averaged nearly 13 runs in each of the last four games, proving that even the wind can't keep them down for long.

"Every game it's been blowing in on us," Van Horn said. "It bothers hitters a little bit, but we're still scoring runs. We've really sprayed the ball all over the field and done a nice job of manufacturing some runs here and there.

"We'll start popping some more homers soon ... It's still winter."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories