FAYETTEVILLE - Grambling State coach James Cooper has seen a lot of home runs in his time as a college and minor league baseball player in the Houston Astros organization.
But when University of Arkansas slugger Andy Wilkins cleared the Baum Stadium scoreboard with a ridiculously high and long home run Friday afternoon in the opening game of this weekend's NCAA Regional, even he was amazed.
"I think that ball is going out of every park – Yellowstone, Jellystone," Cooper said while throwing in the park that cartoon character Yogi Bear lived in. "All of them."
Brett Eibner hit three homers and had seven RBIs and Wilkins, James McCann and Collin Kuhn all hit a pair of round-trippers as the Razorbacks touched off a school-record nine blasts in routing the Tigers 19-7.
"First off, hitting nine home runs in one game is pretty unbelievable," Wilkins said. "I have never seen that before. That was just unbelievable by the offense. And Brett, having that (hairline) fracture in his hand, I know it has been bugging him, but he showed a lot of heart coming out and playing through that pain and doing it for the team."
Lots of the homers cleared the fence with plenty to spare, but it was Wilkins' first one that got the most buzz on a day when the Razorbacks had 17 hits.
"Yeah, I got all of it," Wilkins said. "It was one of the best balls I have hit in a long time. It felt good, but got to come out tomorrow."
Pressed for a little bit more of how it felt, Wilkins – 3-for-4 with four RBIs on the afternoon - opened up a tad.
"It was a fastball that was just right down the middle," Wilkins said. "I was just looking to put a good swing on it and it happened to go a long ways. It felt real good I guess. That is about it."
Eibner had been injured and only served as a pinch-runner at last week's SEC Tournament in the last inning of the Razorbacks' two-game stay there.
He came back in great fashion, blasting a homer in the UA's six-run first inning and going 4-for-5 during the game with a walk while scoring five runs in the process.
Eibner – who said he had not even hit three homers in a Little League game - even threw in some outstanding play in center field for good measure and scored from second base on a deep sacrifice fly.
Cooper has a hard time buying that Eibner is hurt.
"He is a pretty complete ballplayer if you ask me," Cooper said. "I am pretty sure he is going to be drafted pretty high this year. Hairline fracture in his wrist? I don't buy that the way he is swinging the bat."
Eibner now has 21 home runs, Wilkins 15, Kuhn 14 and McCann eight this season.
Cooper noted that Arkansas did not miss a thing his pitchers threw up to the plate beginning with starter Odingo Davila, who failed to make it through the second inning.
"The starting pitching got off to a bad start," Cooper said. "He couldn't get the ball down in the zone. He stayed behind in the count also. They were able to put good swings on good pitches. They hit, what, nine home runs today. We couldn't keep the ball in the park. You won't be able to compete and win games like that."
Kuhn and McCann were two others guys that had scuffled coming into the regional and McCann hadn't hit a home run since April 17.
"My approach at the plate today was just to go right back up the middle with it," McCann said. "It's obvious that I have been struggling lately and I just tried to get back to the basics and stay to the middle of the field and do what I could do to get on base. It happened to work out today."
After jumping to an 8-0 lead, Arkansas took out All-American third baseman Zack Cox, who has also been injured.
Before he left, he went 1-for-2 at the plate and knocked down the second base umpire with a line drive.
"He's fine," Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. "He'll be alright. We just got the lead. He is fine swinging the bat."
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