Charlottesville Regional: Beeks Impressive in Return


CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Arkansas had only hoped for three innings of relief out of pitcher Jalen Beeks before the Charlottesville Regional began.

The junior gave the Razorbacks much more than that at Davenport Field on Sunday.

Beeks threw five scoreless innings during Arkansas’ 10-0 win against Bucknell, successfully returning from an elbow injury. The left-hander allowed three hits and struck out nine, giving Arkansas the quality start it desperately needed to stay alive in the regional and advance to Sunday night’s game against Virginia.

“I was ready for anything,” Beeks said. “I knew I was going to have to pitch, especially after we lost (Saturday). We had to win three games. So I knew I was going to have to pitch, I just didn’t know where.”

Beeks (6-4) got the call a month after his last start at Ole Miss on May 3. The junior felt soreness in his elbow during the outing and was shut down for three weeks, missing starts against Texas A&M, Missouri and in the SEC Tournament.

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn left the field Saturday night believing Zach Jackson or James Teague would start against Bucknell. After discussing options with pitching coach Dave Jorn following his postgame press conference, Van Horn announced Beeks would take the mound against Bucknell.

The junior delivered, tying his career high with nine strikeouts. He threw 77 pitches.

“We really didn’t know who to pitch,” Van Horn said. “We knew we were going to use Jalen sometime unless things just went incredibly well. The more that I talked to (pitching) coach (Dave) Jorn about it, I wanted somebody that had started. I mean, we lose this game we’re done. And Bucknell, they were coming off a big win. … Just thinking we need to be safe and maybe he can give us 50, 60 pitches. He ended up throwing 75 or whatever. He basically wouldn’t let us take him out after the fourth.”

Jackson Lowery replaced Beeks for the fifth inning. The right-hander threw four scoreless innings to help the Razorbacks secure their 10th shutout.

“I actually hadn’t felt any pain the last three or four days, so I really didn’t know what to expect,” Beeks said. “I just told them I’d go as long as I can because I know we have to save pitching to get through these next two games.”

Beeks also earned some redemption after his struggles out of the bullpen in last season’s Manhattan (Kan.) Regional. Beeks allowed three runs in a 4-1 loss to Bryant in the opener, then threw two wild pitches that allowed the game-tying and go-ahead run to score against Kansas State in the regional final.

Beeks said before the regional it was important to prove he was “worthy” after last year’s mishaps in the postseason. He took care of it in a must-win game Sunday, although the Razorbacks’ season ended with the loss to Virginia.

“It’s been a rough month not being able to pitch for this team,” Beeks said. “There’s been a lot of games I wish I could be in. I was just concentrating on getting healthy. But now I’m just excited. …. I was just happy I could help the team, again.”

Impressive Finale

Arkansas second baseman Brian Anderson probably played his final games as a Razorback on Sunday. The draft-eligible junior made it a memorable day, too.

Anderson went 3-for-3 and was hit by two pitches in Arkansas’ elimination game win against Bucknell. He followed it by going 3-for-4 against the Cavaliers, reaching base seven straight times at one point between the two games.

Anderson was one of the top offensive players in the Charlottesville Regional, going 8-for-13 with a home run, triple, 2 RBI and 3 runs in four games. He and Arkansas shortstop Michael Bernal were named to the all-tournament team.

Lineup Shakeup

Arkansas didn’t get production from the bottom of its lineup during the first two games of the Charlottesville Regional. The 7-8-9 trio of Bobby Wernes, Jake Wise and Michael Bernal went a combined 1-for-17 against Liberty and Virginia.

So Van Horn shook things up in the elimination game against Bucknell.

Clark Eagan started at third base in place of Wernes, who left Saturday’s game with a back injury. He moved KJ Wilkerson into the seventh spot in the lineup as designated hitter, while Alex Gosser hit eighth in place of Wise.

Both played a role in Arkansas’ strong start, collecting RBI singles during the four-run fourth inning. Wilkerson, Gosser and Bernal went a combined 4-for-11 against Bucknell, turning in the best performance from the bottom of the lineup this week.

“it worked out good early for sure,” Van Horn said after the Bucknell win. “The first inning, some of the new guys got a chance to hit and they hit.”

Bullpen vs Starters

Arkansas had leaned on its starting pitching this season, but the group suffered through a rough regional.

The four starters — Chris Oliver, Trey Killian, Jalen Beeks and Zach Jackson — combined to allow 11 runs in 16 innings. It included Beeks’ strong outing against Bucknell, when he didn’t allow a run in five innings.

Arkansas’ relievers, meanwhile, pitched well all week. A bullpen that included Michael Gunn, Jacob Stone, Dominic Taccolini, Jackson Lowery and Landon Simpson combined to throw 18 straight shutout innings during the regional.

The streak ended in the ninth inning Sunday. The relievers allowed three runs in 19 innings.

Shutout No. 10

Beeks and Lowery combined for Arkansas’ 10th shutout this season. It also was the second by the Razorbacks in the postseason, joining a 4-0 win against Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament opener on May 20.

The 10 shutouts is tied for the second-highest total in school history. The 2012 Razorbacks also posted 10 shutouts.

The 1977 Razorbacks hold the school record with 13 shutouts.

Reaching 40

Arkansas won for the 40th time in Sunday’s elimination game against Bucknell, reaching the mark for the fifth time in the past six seasons.

The Razorbacks have now won 40 or more games seven times under Van Horn, reaching the mark in 2004, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014. The most Arkansas has won in a single-season under Van Horn is 46 games (2012).