Hogs Hope to Continue Hot Play as Gonzaga Comes to Town

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Photo Courtesy: University of Arkansas Athletics

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas will open a four-game series against Gonzaga today with the first pitch slated for 2 p.m.

Arkansas (3-0) played well against Eastern Illinois last weekend while Gonzaga (2-2) split four games at a neutral site. Arkansas hit the ball well last weekend, played good defense and received very good pitching.

Kole Ramage will get the start in today’s game as Dave Van Horn opts to keep Connor Noland and Patrick Wicklander on their normal days. Noland will pitch Friday and Wicklander on Saturday.

Noland likes the idea of Van Horn leaving him on his normal Friday start as well as Wicklander on Saturday.

“I think it’s good,” Noland said. “Obviously we get to stay in the standard routine staying on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for all the guys that pitched last week.  Just getting in that rhythm each week and carrying it through is going to be good for us.”

Noland was on a 75-pitch count against EIU, but actually threw 86.

“For sure, I felt good,” Noland said. “I had more in the tank to go and I definitely could have gone more innings if I needed to. So that’s good for the first game. Obviously you want to get in there and get your pitch count and get out.”

Ramage picked up the win on Sunday in relief. He pitched two innings. Noland was impressed with what he saw from Ramage.

“I thought he did a really good job,” Noland said. “He’s got four pitches that are  working really well. Obviously he’s a guy that’s been there and been in some big action. So excited for him to get his first start and I think he’s going to do well.”

Outfielder Christian Franklin was one of the hitters who had a good series last weekend. He had five hits in 12 at bats and walked three times as well. He had a home run and knocked in three runs. He could move down in the batting order this week.

“I like him. I just like Christian Franklin’s approach right now, and he may be a guy we move a little bit,” Van Horn said. “He’ll take a walk, but he’s also hit the ball a long way. He uses the whole field. I told Christian before the season started that I might hit him one, two, five, somewhere in there. We may move in back in the order just to sit behind some other hitters. Take a little speed to the middle, to the backside of that lineup.”

Matt Goodheart also had a good opening weekend. He had four hits including a home run. He hit behind Heston Kjrestad who blasted four home runs last weekend. Goodheart joked about batting after Kjrestad.

“It fires me up,” Goodheart said. “They put me behind Kjerstad so maybe he wouldn’t get walked quite as much. But, with the performance he put on this weekend, it’s probably not going to matter. I mean, just from a joking standpoint, I’m just tired of hearing the homer music instead of my walk-up song.”

Beating Gonzaga hasn’t been an easy task for the Razorbacks. Noland talked about that as well.

“I think everybody comes in here and wants to beat us,” Noland said. “That’s just how it goes when you’re the Arkansas Razorbacks. So I think we just play a game like anybody else. You’ve got to come into the game and take care of business. So not making it smaller than it is and just taking care of what we need to do.”

Van Horn knows the hitters will be facing some good pitching from Gonzaga. He talked about what he has seen from the Gonzaga hurlers.

“They’ve got a couple, three guys,” Van Horn said. “They’ve got a left-hander that’s going to throw the ball anywhere from 86-91 with a really good changeup. The right-hander has a little better velocity. All we can go on is basically what we see on video and it’s difficult. You can just see arm action and movement a little bit. Until you really get out there and see what’s going on, it’s really hard to tell you what we’re going to see.”

If the games stay on the current schedule, Friday’s game will start at 3 p.m., Saturday at 2 and Sunday at 1. Due to bad weather forecast particularly for Sunday the teams could play a double-header on Friday.

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