Razorbacks drop first game of season

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas could thank its steady performance on the mound for its thrilling, season-opening sweep of Washington State in Baum Stadium last weekend.

But on Tuesday, the Razorbacks pitching staff found itself in an unusual position: It had a heavy hand in Arkansas' first loss.

Arkansas' pitchers struggled throughout a 9-3 loss to Kansas in front of 1,804 in Baum Stadium. Six pitchers combined to give up seven hits, issue six walks, two of which came with the bases loaded, throw four wild pitches and hit three batters.

The sloppy performance left coach Dave Van Horn busy making changes on the mound throughout the game.

"They took advantage of the six walks, the three hit batters," said Van Horn, who used six pitchers against the Jayhawks. "They just took advantage of everything we gave them."

Arkansas' trouble began in the third inning when starter Brett Eibner (0-1), who was on a 50-pitch count, gave up a double to catcher Buck Afenir. Two batters later, he walked Jake Marasco, then Nick Faunce hit an RBI single to give Kansas a 1-0 lead.

Right-hander Jeremy Heatley replaced Eibner, but struggled to find the strike zone and it led to more runs.

Heatley loaded the bases by walking the second batter he faced. He walked the next batter to make it 2-0. Kansas third baseman Tony Thompson followed with a two-run single to give the Jayhawks (2-2) a 4-0 lead before Van Horn turned to Christian Kowalchuk to get the Hogs (3-1) out of the inning.

"Throwing strikes is a big thing," said Eibner, who gave up an earned run for the first time in five outings dating back to last season. "If you don't throw strikes you're going to get beat."

Kowalchuk ran into trouble, too, and was replaced by Sam Murphy after surrendering two runs on two hits and three walks in 1 2/3 innings. Murphy hit two batters, threw a wild pitch and gave up three runs on one hit in his 1 1/3-inning stint.

Even Justin Wells, who got a win and a save out of the bullpen last weekend, had trouble Tuesday. The senior surrendered a hit and threw two wild pitches and was pulled after 11 pitches.

"We're just trying to see some things," Van Horn said of the multiple changes on the mound. "We've got to play young players and we've got to put young pitchers in there, inexperienced pitchers against good teams."

But Arkansas' offense couldn't go without blame, either.

The Razorbacks got eight hits, but failed to put up a big inning against the Jayhawks and starter Lee Ridenhour (1-0). Arkansas had three, one-run innings — in the fourth, fifth and sixth — but couldn't string together enough hits to keep the game close.

Its biggest hit came in the fifth when second baseman Ben Tschepikow hit a solo home run — his second in four games — over the right-field wall. But the big blast didn't stress Ridenhour, who got out of the inning without any more damage.

Arkansas threatened to cut into the lead in the ninth inning by putting two runners on base. However, first baseman Andy Wilkins struck out to end the game and seal Arkansas' first loss.

"We need to put together back-to-back-to-back hits," Van Horn said. "Hit some balls in the gap, put the bat on the ball and quit popping up. We've got to get better and we told the guys that. Sometimes talk is cheap. You've got to get after it."

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