Todd Slams Door for Diamond Hogs

RUSTON, La. — Jess Todd has heard all the hype. He knows what Arkansas Razorback fans expect. As a junior college all-American entering his first year in Fayetteville, Todd figured he would be counted on in a big way.

Carrying that heavy load, Todd began the 2007 baseball season as Arkansas' closer, just as confident as ever and ready to prove he was worth all the talk.

So what did he do his first time on the mound Friday in the Diamond Hogs' season opener at Louisiana Tech?

Pretty much everything that was expected, except for that near-balk on the very-first pitch.

In front of a crowd of 3,154 at J.C. Love Field — the second-best attended baseball game in Louisiana Tech history despite a bitterly cold night dipping in the low 30s — Todd was clearly the most impressive part of a somewhat unimpressive Arkansas team, as he used a nasty 87-mile per hour slider and an overpowering fastball to work past the Bulldogs in the eighth and ninth innings to preserve a season-opening, 4-2 win for the Razorbacks.

"(Jess) did a tremendous job for us," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "Obviously with the way we were swinging the bats tonight, we knew that runs were really going to be few and far between.

"Once we got to the seventh inning with a one-run lead we were really just trying to get to the ninth (to Todd)."

Limited to two hits through eight innings — both off the bat of freshman Sean Jones — the Razorbacks (1-0) relied on strong relief work, plus a late-inning Jake Dugger home run, to squeeze out the win.

Todd was called on to seal the deal and he was drawing oohs and aahs right from the start.

But the solid effort nearly blew up in Todd's face.

With runners on first and second and two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, Todd — a former Navarro (Texas) College standout — was called on to put out the fire. And he appeared ready to do just that, except for one thing.

The right-handed pitcher stepped on the rubber, ready to deliver his first pitch and forgot about the runners as he set to deliver a pitch from the windup.

Before Todd's possible costly mistake, shortstop Matt Willard saved his teammate, though, wildly calling timeout before Todd could throw his first pitch.

Call it first-game nerves for Todd. Because after his little blunder, he settled in and mowed down Louisiana Tech catcher Matt Combs in a hurry to end the Bulldogs' rally.

"It was just the atmosphere," Todd said. "This is the biggest crowd I've even been around

"I've never played in front of more than 700 people and I was just excited about it all."

"I'm just glad I got the opportunity," Todd said. "Our pitchers kept us in there and Jake (Dugger) came up with a big home run.

"I'm just glad I got in there."


Arkansas at Louisiana Tech

WHEN: 3 p.m., today

WHERE: J.C. Love Field, Ruston, La.

RECORDS: Arkansas 1-0, 0-0; Louisiana Tech 0-1, 0-0

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