Walker Breaks Out of Slump In Big Way

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas catcher Brian Walker has been through enough hitting slumps by now that it's become, as he describes it, "kind of comical."

Granted, Walker has had little to joke about lately. He's gotten off to another slow start to the season, and perhaps the only thing more frustrating than his nagging back problems is his recent struggles at the plate.

But Walker broke out of his latest slump in the biggest of ways Sunday afternoon, smacking a two-out grand slam in the bottom of the fifth inning to help lift No. 9 Arkansas to an 8-3 win over top-ranked Vanderbilt in Baum Stadium.

"The hits will come when they're supposed to come. I can't worry about that, can't control that," Walker said. "But I've just got to keep working on taking quality swings and putting the ball in play."

Before his breakout performance Sunday, Walker had a batting average of .183 — the lowest among Arkansas' starters. He had only one hit in the last six games, and he was given most of Saturday off to rest.

But the junior took advantage of his opportunities in the series finale against Vanderbilt, going 2-for-3 to tie his career-high with five RBI and give him some much-needed confidence.

Walker's grand slam came with two outs in the bottom of the fifth after the Commodores decided to make a pitching change and go with left-hander Stephen Shao. Walker had already faced Shao on Friday night — with no luck.

"When I saw his number, I was like, ‘OK, this is the guy I faced Friday,' which was actually better for me because I'd already seen him once," Walker said. "He blew me away Friday. He beat me Friday; I beat him today and that's the way the game of baseball works."

Walker smacked Shao's fastball over the left-field wall and into Arkansas' bullpen. It was the Razorbacks' first grand slam of the season and the second of Walker's career.

"I wasn't going to pull him in that situation. He's pretty much due to come through," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said of Walker. "I didn't naturally expect him to hit a grand slam.

"I just thought he might slap a base hit to left field or work a walk or whatever it would take just to extend the inning."

Trying Everything

Vanderbilt used five pitchers in the first two games of its series with Arkansas. But the Commodores went with six arms Sunday — to no avail.

Despite changing its pitchers on a regular basis, Vanderbilt had few answers for slowing down Arkansas' hitters in the loss.

The Razorbacks combined for 14 hits, and third baseman Logan Forsythe tied his career-high by hitting safely for a 10th straight game.

"That's all I'm trying to do, is just hit the ball hard," said Forsythe, who went 2-for-4 with 1 RBI. "And more and more, guys on the team, they're starting to up there with that same attitude."

Look Out

Four Arkansas players were hit by pitches Sunday, including shortstop Matt Willard, who took a ball off the top of his batting helmet. He continued playing.


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