The ability to get on base and manufacture runs has been a staple of Arkansas teams under eighth-year coach Dave Van Horn. But even the Razorback skipper is astonished by how his team has been able to do so early in 2010.
Arkansas (6-1) has drawn 43 walks this season and been hit by pitches 18 more times through seven games– a total of 61 base runners without a base hit.
By comparison, Arkansas has 70 base hits this season. In all, the Razorbacks have had 131 base runners.
"It's incredible and it's not like we're just going up there and diving into balls," Van Horn said. "We've got guys that are pretty tough and they're just standing in there and taking them. It's early and pitchers are wild, and I've really noticed that teams are really trying to pitch us inside. That's a compliment to our team because we've done a good job hitting the other way. They're trying to finish us off inside and it's resulted in us being hit by some pitches."
The Razorbacks were walked 14 times and were hit by pitches twice in a 15-3 win over Kansas Tuesday at Baum Stadium. The 14 walks were two shy of a school-record.
"That's a crazy number but it's a number that's going to go down as SEC play begins and we face better competition," Arkansas hitting coach Todd Butler said. "The main thing I want is strike zone discipline. We've worked on bunting and two-strike hitting every day and hopefully it will continue to pay off."
Arkansas recorded a season-high 15 runs and 11 hits against the Jayhawks. Though the Razorbacks have faced Ball State and Troy, favorites in their respective conferences this year, Butler said it was nice to see so many base runners (27) against a name opponent.
"I didn't know what to expect from Kansas," Butler said. "I kind of like some of their arms but they didn't stay in the zone enough to throw strikes. We did a pretty good job but in the first and fourth inning we had the bases loaded and we should have knocked them out right there and didn't. But we did go on and score every inning but one."
Eibner Feels Fine
Brett Eibner is expected to take the mound Sunday at California (6-1). Van Horn told the Swatter's Club on Monday that Eibner had trouble feeling the ball in his last outing, a win over Troy last Sunday.
Eibner said that injury is now fine.
"I don't know what it was really," Eibner said. "There was a lot of blood that rushed to my hand. It was hard to get feeling on the ball and I was going to the mound trying to get some grip and it really wasn't working. I had a tough time finding the strike zone. My velocity was still there, though.
"It was hard to feel my release point, really. I still got my slider over the plate but feeling my fast ball release point was kind of an issue."
Eibner (2-0) has pitched six innings this season on limited pitch counts. He has allowed just two hits and one earned run while striking out eight batters.
At the plate he has been just as effective, scoring seven runs and hitting two home runs in five games. He also has seven RBIs.
Against Kansas Tuesday he scored a career-high four runs, earned three walks and had a double.
Reynolds Steps Up
Freshman shortstop Matt Reynolds has struggled mightily through the first couple of weeks of the season. Through the first six games the Tulsa native was hitting just .067 in 15 at-bats.
That changed against Kansas, however, as Reynolds recorded his first hit since the season-opener, an RBI single in the sixth inning to give the Razorbacks a 10-2 lead. He also drew two walks and reached base on an error in the fifth inning that allowed Arkansas to score five runs and put the Jayhawks away.
"He got a big base hit and that was good for his confidence," Van Horn said. "The players in the dugout were excited to see that. He hit another ball hard that they dropped; it would have been the third out. We got a fourth out and scored five runs."
Reynolds isn't the only Arkansas freshman that has struggled at the plate this season. Entering the Kansas game Reynolds, Matt Vinson, Derrick Bleeker and Kyle Atkins were a combined 1-for-26 hitting.
Razorback pitching coach Dave Jorn found himself in a peculiar position in Tuesday's win, coaching first base.
The reason? Arkansas first base coach Chris Curry was with his wife, Chassity, who was giving birth to their first child.
"I was just glad Jorn didn't get anything hit hard at him over there because I was kind of worried about that," Van Horn said. "He did a good job. We scored more runs with him. Curry's going to have to get his job back now."
Curry is expected to make the trip to California with the team.
Going for 300
Arkansas returns to Baum Stadium next week for a two-game midweek series against South Dakota State and a three-game weekend series against Wisconsin-Milwaukee. There's a good chance the Razorbacks will set a milestone in the process.
Arkansas is just three wins shy of 300 total wins at Baum Stadium. Including postseason play, the Razorbacks have an all-time record of 297-128 at their home ballpark, which opened in 1996.
It could be the first of two 300-win plateaus this season involving the Razorbacks. Van Horn is just 18 wins shy of the same mark as Arkansas' head coach. In last Saturday's win over Troy, Van Horn recorded his 600th career win as a Division-1 coach spanning stints at Northwestern State, Nebraska and Arkansas.
Razorback Baseball Notebook, 3/3
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