As the Arkansas baseball team began the 2014 season with a sweep of Appalachian State, we certainly got a glimpse of what the Razorbacks will look like as the season progresses.
Here is what I’m buying and selling on the baseball team after Opening Weekend at Baum Stadium:
Buy: Pitching staff’s potential
Head coach Dave Van Horn and pitching coach Dave Jorn used a majority of their arms over the weekend in the sweep over the Mountaineers. Friday, Arkansas started junior Jalen Beeks, who gave up only three hits in six innings of work, and the bullpen closed the door for Arkansas, allowing just one hit and striking out four in the final three innings.
Saturday, another junior got the start on the mound. This time it was Chris Oliver, who pitched very well, allowing just one hit and striking out five in five innings of work. Landon Simpson struggled a bit in one-plus innings pitched, but Michael Gunn closed out strong, giving up a hit in 2.1 innings pitched.
Then Sunday, the bullpen shined. After relieving starter Alex Phillips, the Arkansas pen retired the Mountaineer lineup from the fifth to the eighth inning, allowing Arkansas to add runs and secure the series sweep. The pitching staff compiled a 2.67 earned run average in the opening series and struck out 28.
Sell: Arkansas’ pitching miscues
Arkansas’ pitching staff was uncharacteristically wild in its first series of the 2014 season compared to past staffs. It didn’t wind up being a major factor in the series, though. It potentially could, but it’s unlikely.
The Razorback staff hit a total of seven Appalachian State batters over the three-game set. They also threw a pair of wild pitches, one from Beeks and Oliver in each of their starts.
Nerves were definitely a factor for true freshman Dominic Taccolini. He plunked each of his first two batters he faced in his career. Chris Oliver also hit a pair of batters, and Zach Jackson, Michael Gunn, and Jackson Lowery each hit one.
Again, Opening Weekend jitters likely had a lot to do with the pitching miscues. But to be fair, Arkansas was not as wild as Appalachian State’s staff. The Mountaineer staff hit a total of 12 Razorbacks in the series.
As the season progresses, these issues will be resolved. You shouldn’t expect to continue to see this staff have the same control issues again.
Buy: Freshman Andrew Benintendi
The freshman centerfielder made an impression on the Razorback faithful and his coaching staff in his first career games, but he did it in unorthodox ways.
Benintendi was slotted as the Arkansas leadoff man in all three games versus Appalachian State, a tall order for a true freshman. But he handled the pressure like a veteran.
Despite going 0-for-6 at the plate, Benintendi still found ways to get on base and be productive. He played the role of a true leadoff man, compiling a .538 on-base percentage and a pair of RBIs. So how did he manage a high OBP if he didn’t record even a single hit?
Benintendi found his way on base by taking the App State pitchers deep into counts and drawing walks. He was also a pitch magnet, and was plunked on three occasions. Once the speedy freshman was on base, he made a huge impact. He swiped a base and scored four times.
Benintendi showed the potential to be the epitome of a fantastic leadoff man in his first college series. Arkansas fans should be excited about Benintendi.