FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas pitching coach Dave Jorn said the Razorbacks had not made a decision on their No. 3 starter before heading off to Virginia.
But it sounds like the Razorbacks are preparing Zach Jackson for the role this week.
“We’ve got to figure out who is going to be that third starter,” Jorn said Wednesday. “We’ve talked a little bit about it. We haven’t made any kind of final judgment on it, but Zach Jackson would probably be the candidate to be able to do that for us.”
Jackson (2-2, 1.80 ERA) has worked out of the bullpen most of the season, teaming with Michael Gunn and Jacob Stone to form a dependable trio of relievers. The freshman earned his first start for Arkansas’ fifth game in the SEC Tournament.
Jackson — who threw three scoreless innings in relief of Killian in the SEC Tournament opener against Texas A&M — was successful in his shortened start. He allowed one run on two hits in three innings against LSU’s potent lineup. The only mistake resulted in Conner Hale’s second-inning home run.
Arkansas has been looking for a consistent starter since Jalen Beeks suffered an elbow injury on May 3. Dominic Taccolini has been shaky in three starts since, while left-hander Colin Poche also struggled in the SEC Tournament against the Tigers.
So Jackson could get the call for the Razorbacks if they play a third game in Virginia.
“We could’ve left him in another inning or two (against LSU),” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “We just didn’t want to hurt him. We’re trying to build up his pitches a little bit. We threw him right around 50 and next time out maybe he can go 70.”
If Arkansas falls behind in the Charlottesville Regional there won’t be much panic coming from the dugout. The Razorbacks have had success rallying to score late runs against Missouri and Ole Miss the past few weeks.
Arkansas completed a three-game sweep at Missouri despite trailing 5-1 in the ninth inning. The Razorbacks scored four runs in the ninth to push the game into extra innings, then scored two in the 11th to complete a 7-5 win.
It was even more impressive in an elimination game against Ole Miss at the SEC Tournament. Arkansas fell into a 6-0 hole, but tied the game twice at 6-6 and 7-7 before scoring the game-winning run in the eighth inning.
“I think it shows our team we’re never really out of a game,” Arkansas second baseman Brian Anderson said. “When you’re down 6-0 and they still have their starter in, it’s going to be a challenge. I think we’ve really just banded together whether it’s been the pitchers, guys in the dugout. They were still in the game. No matter the score, they’re always in the game. … It was really incredible.”
There’s no guarantee the Razorbacks will play Bucknell in the Charlottesville Regional. If they do, the Hogs will face a team led by a former Arkansas pitcher.
Scott Heather is in his second season as Bucknell’s coach, taking over the program after an eight-year run as pitching coach. Heather pitched for the Razorbacks under former coach Norm DeBriyn in 1997 and 1998 and also worked as an assistant at UA-Ft. Smith from 1999-2004. He earned his degree from Arkansas in 2003.
Heather was named the Patriot League’s Coach of the Year this season and is 46-52-1 in two seasons with the program. He’ll coach his 100th game at Bucknell during Friday’s regional opener against top-seed Virginia.
Cape Cod Reunion
Beeks and Arkansas pitcher Chris Oliver will be reunited with a couple of Cape Cod teammates at the Charlottesville Regional. Virginia outfielder Derek Fisher and pitcher Nick Howard played will Beeks and Oliver with the Harwich Mariners.
“Judging by those two guys, I know they’ve got to be pretty good,” Oliver said. “I haven’t talked to them since the Cape. It will be interesting meeting up with those guys again. So I’m excited to get out there.”
Arkansas has never played a game at Virginia, which is hosting an NCAA Regional for the fifth straight season. Its opening-night opponent was there a few weeks ago.
Liberty played Virginia at Davenport Field during a midweek game on May 7, losing 8-2 to the Cavaliers. The single game was nothing unusual, considering Liberty’s campus in Lynchburg, Va., is roughly 65 miles from Charlottesville.
Virginia is 31-20-1 against Liberty.