Call it an ugly win, Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said afterwards. But call it a win.
Arkansas moved to 2-0 with a 5-4 victory over Wright State, but it wasn't pretty. The Hogs made four errors and committed mental errors on the base paths and on the mound in what might be a typical early-season outing around the country in college baseball.
"Both teams would tell you it wasn't very pretty," Van Horn said. "I told myself in preseason that I'd have to be patient with these team and I need to remind myself of that."
Of course, he didn't think he'd see errors and mental errors from returnees. Logan Forsythe, the Hogs' top returnee, sparkled in the field with several nice plays but he cost the Hogs with a base running mistake to take the team out of a potential big inning.
Forsythe was on second base in the fourth inning when a fly ball in deep center went off a glove for a two-base error. Forsythe remained at second until the ball was dropped thinking he needed to tag and advance on the out. He eventually did move to third and score on another hit, but a runner behind him was cut down at the plate on that play.
"I don't know that Logan has ever forgotten how many outs there were in his life and he will probably never do it again," Van Horn said. "When he got to third on that play he looked at me and I looked at him, and I could tell he was furious. I didn't even say a word to him and still haven't. I think he is still upset."
Just like in the opener, the Hogs won on a long ball in the middle innings. Wright State got to UA starter for three runs in the third inning and led 4-1 after the top of the fifth. But the Hogs got two unearned runs in the bottom of the fifth and took the lead on Aaron Murphree's two-run homer in the sixth. Brett Eibner had a leadoff single before the 6-5 Murphree went the other way with a blast to right.
Murphree had only 1 RBI in 37 at bats last year, but has four two games into his senior season.
"He had a great fall last year but he got off to a slow start and then we had some other guys got rolling and he never got another chance," Van Horn said. "He's got it going now and some of our young guys are playing well, too.
"You like what you see from Andy Wilkins and from Brett Eibner. And, we've got another freshman (Jeff House) that you'll see and he may be as good. All three of those guys may be in there every day eventually."
Wilkins had three hits, Eibner two. That was pretty much it for the offense as three Wright State pitchers limited the Hogs to seven hits.
Wright State only managed five hits against four UA pitchers, just two after the third inning. Seibert, coming back from Tommy John surgery, handled the excitement of his return fine for two innings but ran into trouble with his location in the third. Cliff Springston, who go the victory, shut down Wright after that with Travis Hill getting the last five outs for the save.
"My arm felt fine, but my delivery was off," Seibert said. "I just don't know what happened. My delivery wasn't like it's been in my bullpen workouts."
Pitching coach Dave Jorn wasn't surprised.
"We just needed to get Shaun out here and get this over with," he said. "You know he wasn't anything like what we'd seen in the bullpens. You could almost predict it. He'll be fine. We just need to get him back out here a few more times and he'll be alright."
Through two games the Hogs have used seven pitchers with the best results from Dallas Keuchel and Hill, according to Jorn.
"We've talked and worked on locating the ball," Jorn said. "So far the only ones who have done that have been Keuchel and Hill. Of course, what do you know about them? They have pitched the most.
"The others haven't located. And, they haven't established their breaking ball for strikes. That's what it's all about. Keuchel and Hill have done that. What I will say is that the young guys have competed. We just need to get them back out here and in more games. They'll get better."
Jorn noted both starters so far have faced the jitters. Seibert was hyped for his first start after surgery. True freshman James Mahler, the starter in the opener Friday, was just a nervous.
"Mahler was so nervous last night that he left his jacket in the bullpen," Jorn said. "We started looking for it in the dugout after he came in before the start of the game and we couldn't find it. We didn't know if he didn't bring it out of the locker room or he left it in the bullpen. We found it down there."
No doubt, a jacket was important in both games, but moreso Friday night when temperatures bounced between 30 and 29 degrees. It was 46 degrees for the first pitch Saturday.
"It was a brutal night to pitch so I don't worry too much about him for that game," Jorn said. "We just need to get him back out there and let him go again. But what I hope is that they see that location (of pitches) is more important than stuff. We've been telling them that and I hope they see it now."
Shaun Seibert follows through on a pitch.
Ben Tschepikow puts a ball in play against Wright State.
Photos by Marc F. Henning
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