Pitching Paves Way For Series Sweep

FAYETTEVILLE — A slight hiccup. That's all that kept the Arkansas pitching staff from dominating the entire weekend against Florida in a key Southeastern Conference series sweep.

The Razorbacks pitchers were a collective wrecking crew against a Florida team that led the SEC Eastern Division coming into the series this weekend in Baum Stadium. Arkansas' starters in all three games of the series had quality performances. It started with Nick Schmidt's record-setting effort on Saturday, continued with another gem by Duke Welker in the second game of Saturday's twinbill and finished with a solid effort by right-hander Jess Todd in Sunday's 10-7 come-from-behind win. The weekend pitching was a culmination of a week of solid mound work by the Hogs, starting with a four-hit collective effort in a 2-0 win against Missouri State last Wednesday. "Against Missouri State we started four bullpen guys who haven't gotten a whole lot of opportunity on the weekends and they were able to come in and make pitches," Arkansas pitching coach Dave Jorn said. "Spot the fastball, get the breaking ball over even when you're behind in the count and that's pretty much how you win. "This weekend Nick wasn't that sharp, I didn't think Duke was that sharp, but I thought they both competed really well. "Today was a tough day. Jess ran out of gas, he threw a lot of pitches (103)," Jorn said. "It wasn't a good fit with him and the umpire behind the plate because he had a high (strike) zone. He wasn't giving him the low pitch." For five innings, Todd allowed just two hits and struck out a career-high 10 Florida batters to help the Razorbacks to a 4-0 lead. "I was pleased with my performance," Todd said. "We were going to try something new today. Instead of throwing four-seam fastballs, we were throwing two-seamers. I might have thrown four four-seam fastballs the whole game." Todd said the reliance on the two-seamer was to encourage more ground balls. It was effective. None of the 15 outs recorded with Todd on the mound were fly balls. But he also struggled with command of the pitch, allowing a season-high four walks. "That was the most wild I've been all year, but I was trying a new pitch," Todd said. "Well, it wasn't a new pitch, but I threw it about 65-70 times today. I'm still trying to get a feel for it, it's just something I've got to work on. I'm just trying to get more movement, more ground balls. "It worked today." The bullpen was unable to hold the lead despite not allowing any big blows. Florida scored six runs in the inning, but several came home on infield dribblers and a catcher's interference. "They really didn't sting it that hard, but they found some holes," Jorn said. "That's what happens when you get rolling in an inning ... it's hard to shut it down." Still, despite the sixth-inning meltdown, Jorn sees the pitching staff and the rest of the team starting to put it together as the heart of the SEC season approaches. "I just think the guys are getting better," Jorn said. "The hitters are getting better, the pitchers are getting better. They're starting to grow with some confidence. We're just getting better." Two-Out Terrors Arkansas might consider starting every inning with two outs. Six of Arkansas' 10 runs came with two outs in the inning, including three in the third. Brian Walker crushed a solo homer more than 400 feet over the right-center field wall for the Hogs' first run, and Logan Forsythe (4-for-5, 6 RBIs) added a two-run single. Later the Hogs added another two-out run in the fifth and two more in the seventh on Danny Hamblin's two-out home run. Forsythe ended the streak with a three-run double in the eighth with no outs that proved to be the game-winner. Forsythe's six RBIs were a career-high as were his five hits. Short Hops Sunday's crowd of 7,487 was late arriving due to the noon start. Still, the large turnout was welcome after miserable weather hampered actual attendance the past two weekends. The gametime temperature was 56 degrees, but the stadium was drenched in sunshine for the first time in a while. ... There are only two SEC weekend home series left this season. The Hogs host LSU on May 4-6 and Ole Miss on May 17-19 to end season. The Ole Miss series is a Thursday-Saturday series. Arkansas is on the road for the next four games, going to Missouri State this Wednesday (6 p.m.) and at Georgia for the weekend. ... Walker's third inning homer was his fifth of the season ... Arkansas batters have been hit by pitch 72 times this season, fifth-most in school history. ... Florida starter Bryan Augenstein threw 138 pitches on Sunday ... Following Sunday's game, Razorbacks fifth-year assistant coach Trey Holloway proposed to his girlfriend, Kristen Hardcastle.

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