While Arkansas’ offense flourished again on Saturday in a 10-3 win over Eastern Illinois, it was a pitcher that put the biggest smile on Razorback baseball head coach Dave Van Horn’s face.

Veteran Will McEntire, who had struggled in both a start and a relief appearance so far this season, righted the ship with a 4 2/3 innings stint in which he allowed a run on two hits, two walks and fanned four.

Considering McEntire came in with a 22.50 ERA and having allowed 9 hits and 5 runs in 2 innings, it was a welcome sight for the Razorback faithful at Baum-Walker Stadium.

“It was really good to see McEntire throw the ball a lot better today,” Van Horn said. “He’s not where he was last year yet, but it was a lot better than last week, and you know, used his cutter, his fastball, his curveball, changeup. 

“I mean, he went out and pitched, and pitched to contact a little bit, but he ate up almost five innings for us, and that was good.”

The Razorbacks (5-1), who won 13-2 on Friday,  will look to sweep the three-game series from the Panthers (3-2) on Sunday at 1 p.m. 

McEntire, whose ERA dropped to 8.10 retired the first six batters he faced in order before allowing Kolten Poorman’s solo homer to lead off the third that cut the Arkansas lead to 3-1.

He credited working with Razorback pitching coach Matt Hobbs and DJ Baxendale for straightening out his technique.

“So Coach Hobbs and Coach Baxendale got with me and apparently my arm slot had dropped a pretty significant amount,” McEntire said. “It was making my stuff more just spin and not really move as I needed it too. 

“So we got back on the mound on Thursday and I moved it back up because I am more of an over the top pitcher. I feel like my stuff was was better today. Credit to them for helping me fix that.”

There was some speculation that Van Horn might start someone else on Saturday, but he stuck with McEntire.

“It means a lot,” McEntire said. ‘They have faith in me and I really appreciate that.”  

McEntire, who was 2-2 with a 2.59 ERA in 12 appearances late last season, admitted the start of this 2023 campaign has been mentally taxing fr for him.

“It’s been tough,” McEntire said. “You want to come out and start the season off how you did last year and you just have to fight through it and look at the positives and move on forward to the next game.

Arkansas scored its 10 runs on 13 hits with Jace Bohrofen’s three hits leading the way while Tavian Josenberger, Jared Wegner, Brady Slavens and Parker Rowland all adding a pair each.

Bohrofen had two doubles and a single, a pair of runs and two RBIs on Saturday and is hitting a team-leading .500 (8 of 16) so far this season

“Yeah, well he’s got a good eye at the plate, and he’s a tough out,” Van Horn said. “Been around a little bit. You know, we saw that he was primed to have a big year, so I’m just glad to see him get off to a good start, because he didn’t get off to one last year. 

“And then he got hurt, and by the time he started getting going, he got hurt and never really recovered, honestly.”

The Oklahoma transfer is taking the ball to all fields.

“He’s driving the ball to right field, left field, stayed on that breaking ball, hit it over the left fielder’s head there… But he’s just been solid, and he’s been a real tough out,” Van Horn said.

Bohrofen is coming off an injury plagued 2022 season.

“It feels good,” Bohrofen said. “Confidence is everything and getting off to a hot start and carrying it into hopefully SEC play is going to give me a lot of confidence. It just really feels good.”

Koty Frank, Brady Tygart and Dylan Carter finished up on the mound for Arkansas.

“He (Frank) did a really good job,” Van Horn said.  “I mean, he came in and just does what he does. He works really quick, he keeps our fielders are at full attention when he gets the ball. It’s ‘Bang,’ he’s going. 

“Threw his breaking ball behind in the count, slider, threw his fastball, changeup — pitched backwards a little bit, and you know, zipped through a couple innings for us, because at the time, the game got a little stale on our side.”

Slavens’ RBI single got Arkansas on the board in the first before Josenberger hit a two-run homer in the second to put the Razorbacks up 3-0.

Rowland’s RBI double pushed it to 4-1 in the fourth.

The game remained tight with  Cole Gober’s RBI single in the top of the eighth cutting Eastern Illinois’ deficit to 5-3.

But Arkansas exploded in the eighth with Slavens, Bohrofen, McLaughlin and Rowland all producing run-scoring hits.

Photo by John D. James