FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas posted a season-opening sweep of Appalachian State with an odd 8-3 win against Appalachian State on Sunday at Baum Stadium.
The Razorbacks (3-0) managed just three hits. But the Mountaineers’ pitching staff hit six Arkansas batters and walked seven more. Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said it was one of the strangest games he’d ever seen.
“I think the 9-hole spot today was hit four times in a row,” Van Horn said. “It’s incredible. And that was three different hitters, three different guys in that spot. It’s just the way it is. … You’ve got to win different ways and you might not see this again for 10 years, but it’s just the way it was today. You get three hits and score eight runs, we’ll take it.”
Through three games, the Mountaineers (0-3) hit 12 Razorbacks with pitches. Last season, Arkansas was only hit 36 times which ranked 258th in NCAA Division I out of 296 teams. It’s something the players have talked about coming into this year.
“This year we have kind of emphasized it a little bit more, instead of ducking out of the way of balls, wear them for the team,” Arkansas left fiender Joe Serrano said. “We have a little thing in the locker room going on, you get hit by a pitch you get a little surprise in your locker after the game. Any way you can get on base, I’ll wear one any day of the week to get on base. It is something that helps the team and we are trying to emphasize more on-base percentages here.”
Van Horn said his staff has stressed it as well.
“Basically, we don’t want you to get hurt, but you need to stand in there and take it — especially when you’re behind in the count or we’re behind in the game and we need runners,” Van Horn said. “We talked about it before the season started, and I think (assistant) coach (Tony) Vitello has mentioned it a few times. It’s about being able to touch home plate. It’s not about your batting average.”
The win was the 2,000th in Arkansas’ program history.
Arkansas got an RBI double from Van Buren’s Tyler Spoon in the bottom of the first for an early lead. After Appalachian State jumped to a 2-1 lead, the Razorbacks reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the second without getting a hit. Krisjon Wilkerson drew a lead-off walk. After an out, Jake Wise and Bobby Wernes were both hit by pitches to load the bases. Andrew Benintendi drew a walk that forced in Wilkerson, then Serrano’s sacrifice fly to center scored Wise as Arkansas led 3-2.
After the Mountaineers tied the game with a solo home run in the top of the third, Arkansas took the lead for good in the bottom of the seventh — but this time hits were involved. Pinch hitter Clark Eagan opened the inning by getting hit with a pitch. After moving to second on a Benintendi sac bunt, Serrano finally got the Razorbacks’ second hit with an RBI double. Brian Anderson followed with an RBI single for a 5-3 Arkansas lead.
The Razorbacks added three more runs in the eighth thanks to a walk, sac fly, hit batter, walk, hit batter and RBI ground out.
While Appalachian State pitchers struggled with control, the five Arkansas pitchers didn’t. They gave up five hits, while walking two and striking out nine. Freshman Alex Phillips started but was no-decisioned after giving up all three Mountaineers’ runs. Van Horn, however, was pleased with his first appearance.
“Alex’s thing is, he’s a location guy. You saw in the first inning, especially the second hitter,” Van Horn said. “He zipped that left hander in there twice and struck him out. That’s what he does. He’s sneaky fast, has a good change up.”
Jacob Stone (1-0) got the win for Arkansas in relief.
Arkansas hosts Eastern Illinois for a three-game series beginning Friday at 3:05 p.m.