More than the California sunshine, the arms the Arkansas baseball team will see this weekend has Razorback coaches excited.
Arkansas (6-1) heads west this weekend for a three-game series against Cal (6-1). First pitch Friday is set for 3:30 p.m., Central time. The Razorbacks are averaging more than 10 runs per game over their five-game winning streak but meet a Bears club that is allowing just more than two runs per game.
"They've got tremendous arms," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "I talked to a couple of scouts that are national cross-checkers that have seen Cal play and they said they're pretty talented. They've got good arms. The guy on Sunday throws really hard and they've got a real good lefty for Saturday. They're putting up runs, too. They're playing well. We're both 6-1 and they didn't have a midweek game getting ready for us."
Arkansas prepared in the midweek against Kansas, a 15-3 Razorback win at Baum Stadium. The Hogs earned 14 walks in that game and had 27 base-runners.
It won't be so easy on the West Coast, said hitting coach Todd Butler, who wants to see his team pour in the runs against the best competition to this point in the season. Cal has feasted on weaker competition, sweeping a three-game series with Division-2 Southern Utah by a combined score of 46-0 and winning the Cal State Bakersfield Tournament last week with wins over Central Michigan, Saint Mary's and Cal State Bakersfield.
Still, pitching has been superb for the Bears. Sophomore right-handers Erik Johnson (Friday starter) and Dixon Anderson (Sunday) are both 2-0 with 0.00 ERAs. Freshman left-hander Justin Jones, who will start Saturday, is 2-0 with 1.29 ERA.
"I'm really excited to see some velocity in those pitches," Butler said. "We saw some velocity against Kansas but they walked too many guys. They had some young guys throwing but going to Cal we're going to have a challenge. I'm excited to see if we can respond.
"I want to see some guys throwing 90-95 and might come back not wanting to see that. But we need to see some velocity getting ready for SEC play."
Cal will have to contend with a hot Razorback lineup, though, including first baseman Andy Wilkins. The junior Team USA member scored six runs last weekend in a series sweep of Troy and has 11 RBIs in his last four games played.
"He's real comfortable right now," Van Horn said. "There are some guys that are still feeling their way along but if you can get three or four guys rolling in your lineup and the other guys can just contribute, you're going to win a lot of games. Hopefully here in the next few weeks we can get five or six or seven guys going when it really counts."
Arkansas might also get the services of second baseman Bo Bigham against the Bears. The sophomore suffered a torn labrum in the season-opener two weeks ago against Ball State, but has been cleared to play. Van Horn said earlier in the week he might be held out this weekend as a precautionary, but could return next week in a midweek series against South Dakota State in Fayetteville.
It's the second consecutive year Arkansas and Cal have met on the diamond. The Razorbacks two of three last season at home.
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