All Eibner In Springfield

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Before Arkansas bussed over to Hammons Field, sophomore Brett Eibner hadn't yet seen coach Dave Van Horn's lineup card. He knew he was slated to pitch Tuesday night at Missouri State.

But Eibner wanted more.

"I went up to him (Tuesday) in the locker room and said, ‘Coach I'm going to hit today,'" said Eibner, a 6-foot-4 right-hander. "I went and told him that, so I was so glad that he listened."

Van Horn surely was thrilled he obliged, as well. In addition to throwing four shutout innings, Eibner accounted for the only two runs of Arkansas' 2-0 victory before 1,146 fans in chilly Springfield. He blasted solo home runs in the fourth and sixth innings as the Razorbacks clinched their second-best record through 25 games under Van Horn (20-5).

Eibner, who led Arkansas in runs batted in last season, entered Tuesday's contest with a .182 batting average, mired in a season-long slump.

But, in reality, Van Horn didn't need the prodding. He already was planning on getting Eibner's bat in the Arkansas lineup.

"I wanted him to hit," Van Horn said. "I felt like he deserved to be in the lineup. We were trying to get him ready for South Carolina, stuck him in the 4-hole and it paid off."

Van Horn said he felt confident after Eibner's first at-bat, even as most of Arkansas' hitters struggled with Missouri State starter Aaron Meade.

"He hit two home runs and everyone is going to remember those, but if you remember, he had a 10-pitch walk (in the second)," Van Horn said. "That was incredible. That's what leadoff guys do, what little guys do. I felt like he would have a great night after that."

As his coach alluded, Eibner immediately produced at the plate after that second-inning battle with Meade, crushing two pitches for his first multi-homer game at Arkansas.

His first home run was a line drive that didn't get far off the ground but still landed over the fence in left-center field. His second was a one-out blast in the sixth, a towering shot that cleared the Bears' bullpen behind the left-field fence.

Van Horn said Eibner has improved his hitting because he has "tried to shorten his swing and focus on going the other way." Eibner credits long hours with a former Razorback.

"Big thanks to Danny (Hamblin)," Eibner said. "I can't thank him enough for helping me out and spending that much time with me. I'm getting a lot of confidence back."

Almost lost amidst Eibner's blasts was his flawless pitching effort. He baffled Missouri State's hitters with high-velocity fastballs and hard-breaking offspeed pitches.

Van Horn almost couldn't believe how fast Eibner threw Tuesday night.

"He looked like he was up around 94 or 95 (miles per hour)," Van Horn said.

Eibner threw only four innings because of a strict pitch count, but he gave up no hits, struck out five and allowed just one base runner. Five other pitchers helped Eibner — who struck out a career-high seven against Missouri State last Wednesday — combine for a three-hit shutout.

That means Missouri State (13-12) has now failed to score in 18 innings against the Razorbacks this season. Eibner was far more interested in that than his individual efforts.

"I'm excited about the home runs and getting my (third) win," Eibner said. "But really, I just wanted to go out there and help my team out. This isn't just about me. This is about helping us get wins and eventually get to Omaha."

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