After a national runner-up last year, the No. 16 nationally ranked Diamond Hogs look promising with a series sweep against Eastern Illinois University to start out the 2019 season.
The Razorbacks had an impressive showing at the plate with 18 hits in the first game. Graduate transfer first baseman Trevor Ezell, sophomore catcher Casey Opitz and freshman outfielder Christian Franklin each drove in three runs. Offensively, the Hogs had seven walks and no strikeouts. Redshirt-junior Isaiah Campbell started off on the mound for the Razorbacks recording five of the Hogs’ eight strikeouts, giving Campbell his first win of the season over the Panthers 15-7.
The second game of the doubleheader was another great offensive performance for the Hogs. A six-run eighth inning put the game out of reach as the Hogs recorded 14 hits and outscored their opponent 12-3. Freshman pitcher Connor Noland, a dual-sport athlete, had his first start, totaling seven strikeouts and zero walks through four and two-thirds innings. Noland started a game for the Arkansas football team last semester, winning his start 23-0 against the University of Tulsa. Sophomore reliever Kole Ramage came in to finish the fifth inning and went on to receive the win after pitching two more scoreless innings.
Junior pitcher Jacob Kostyshock got his first career start for the Razorbacks in the last game of the series. Kostyshock pitched five innings, giving up no runs. Eastern Illinois tied the game in the eighth inning and Hogs’ left-handed closer Matt Cronin was called to the mound allowing only one hit in his first appearance of the season. A walk-off base hit by sophomore right fielder Heston Kjerstad in the bottom of the ninth led the Diamond Hogs to a 3-2 win, and the team completed the series sweep. Cronin and teammates Heston Kjerstad, Casey Martin and Dominic Fletcher were named to the Preseason All-SEC First Team.
The Diamond Hogs will travel to Los Angeles to take on the University of Southern California on Thursday at 9 p.m.