Baxendale Guts It Out as Hogs Avoid Sweep

Razorback Senior Jake Wise has pulled marathon duty at catcher with the move of backup catcher Blake Baxendale to the D.H. spot a month ago. This past weekend Wise finally got some unplanned rest after suffering concussion-like symptoms in a collision at the plate with infielder Brantley Bell in game two of the Ole Miss series in Oxford.

Baxendale finished up behind the plate on Saturday and continued at catcher in game three as Wise remained sidelined. However head coach Dave Van Horn had a decision to make when Baxendale pulled a hamstring in his right leg trying to beat a throw to first in the sixth inning of the Sunday game.

"I said to him, 'Hey man, we can pull you out right here,' " Van Horn recalled after the game. " 'We got a good lead (8-1) now. You've done all you need to do,' and he goes, 'Coach I want to hit.' " 

Baxendale got that chance to hit, twice in fact. He aggravated the injury in the 8th trying to reach first on third strike wild pitch that scored a run from third.

An inning later Baxendale came to the plate again, this time with two outs and the bases loaded. Unable to plant with his back foot Baxendale took some good natured ribbing from Wise as he took an awkward stance in the batter's box.

"Jake jokingly from the dugout yelled, 'Stay in your legs, Stay in your legs.' But I just told myself, throw the bat at the ball," Baxendale explained. The strategy worked. Baxendale stroked a 3-1 pitch into right center bringing home runners from second and third.

"I had told him, 'If you get a hit you've got to find a way to first base,' " Van Horn said with a laugh. Baxendale admitted he had an anxious moment as he watched the ball land while limping toward the bag telling the Razorback Nation, "It looked like the center fielder kind of came up and looked like he wanted  to throw to first. But I told myself, 'you've got to get there.' I think I ran like a 7.5 (seconds) down the line."

The Hogs really didn't need those two runs in what turned out to be an 11-1 win, preventing an Ole Miss sweep of the series. But Baxendale's teammates appreciated his grit in what had been a rough weekend at Oxford-University Stadium.

"Blake's a really tough kid. He's a very team-first guy and that just speaks volumes about him and his character," sophomore third baseman Bobby Warnes said.

Van Horn decided that Baxendale had endured enough after the two-RBI single. He pulled him in the bottom of the 9th inserting right handed pitcher Jackson Lowery into the lineup at catcher to avoid pulling the red-shirt off of true freshman Alex Gosser.

"Lowery caught in high school (Little Rock Pulaski Academy)," Van Horn revealed. "(Krisjon)Wilkerson caught a little bit in junior college but hasn't caught much. (Jake) Spoon's caught. They were all wanting to catch. Finally we just decided to go with Lowery because he catches a lot of bullpens for us."

Van Horn said on Monday that both Wise and Baxendale will continue to be evaluated this week. If neither is able to play in the Texas A&M series Spoon will likely be the full game replacement. Van Horn said he will not burn Gosser's red-shirt this late in the season.

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