Fast start lifts Diamond Hogs

FAYETTEVILLE – A day after Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn called this year's freshman class the best he's had at the school, his newcomers came up big.

From the winning pitcher, to the closer to swinging the bats, freshmen were the story in the Razorbacks' 7-3 win over Valparaiso Tuesday at Baum Stadium.

"We've got some good older players, but we've got some young guys that are right there pushing to play a little bit," Van Horn said. "They'll have to help us out through the season. Today we just wanted to get them in there."

Arkansas (6-1) used six runs in the first two innings to put a lot distance between themselves and the Crusaders. Freshman Bo Bigham, starting at second base for the first time this season, got things rolling in the first with a double in his first career at-bat.

"Bo can hit," Van Horn said. "He has good hands at the plate and can go the other way. He got a couple of hits, stole a base, turned a double play - he kind of got his feet wet and did a super job."

Bigham said getting the hit early took some pressure off.

"It was a big relief," Bigham said. "It made everything so much easier. We got things rolling after that with four runs in the first inning and two in the next. It was a big boost."

A right-handed hitter, Van Horn said team needs to find ways to get Bigham in the game more.

"Whether it be at second base or in the designated hitter spot, he can help this team," Van Horn said.

Bigham scored on a Ben Tshepikow single one pitch later, and after a pair of stolen bases, Tschepikow was plated on an Andy Wilkins single down the right field line.

Wilkins and Brett Eibner gave the Razorbacks a 4-0 lead in the first on a double from freshman Zack Cox.

Arkansas added two more runs in the second inning to build a 6-0 lead.

"We wanted to get after them," Van Horn said. "We got on them early and they gave us a couple here and there, but we really didn't do much at the end of the game.

"We had the game in-hand and we were happy with the outcome, but it would have been nice to score some more runs."

Bigham finished the game 2-of-4 from the plate with an RBI, run scored and stolen base. He wasn't alone in Razorback freshmen giving the Hogs a lift in their third consecutive win.

Redshirt freshman Drew Smyly improved to 2-0 on the season with a five-inning, one-run outing. The lefty gave up five hits and struck out five batters, while walking just one.

"He did a good job," Van Horn said. "He threw his curve ball a little harder the last couple of innings. He spotted his fast ball all day and was able to throw strikes.

"I'm proud of him. He keeps getting better. It was a chilly day and he got it done for us."

The Razorbacks were able to throw a couple of familiar faces into the game in relief, as both Mike Bolsinger (mononucleosis) and Bryan Bingham (ribs) saw their first action of the season.

Bingham was solid, sitting down all six batters he faced, including two strikeouts in scoreless sixth and seventh innings.

After a solid eighth inning, Bolsinger struggled to get outs in the ninth, allowing a pair of runs and leaving with the bases loaded before freshman Geoffrey Davenport recorded the save in his first outing of the year.

"Bolsinger ran out of gas," said Van Horn, who noted Bolsinger has been able to do any conditioning drills. "He's not in very good shape, of course just coming off mono. He got a little fatigued.

"I thought Bingham did a great job. It was nice to see that. We knew we had them but we needed to get them back. I wanted to get them in the game tonight and get them another day's rest so we can use them this weekend."

Bingham said he has been anxious to get on the mound.

"I was ready to go," Bingham said. "I've been missing it, seeing the the whole team go out there and practice every day. It's killed me that I haven't been out there the last couple of months."

The two teams will meet again Wednesday in the final game of the midweek series, with a first pitch scheduled for 3:05 p.m.

Brett Eibner is expected to get the starting nod for Arkansas, while Valparaiso (4-2) will throw senior Alex Berry.

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