BVY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn hoped to get a couple of home wins over Little Rock this week while resting some starters and not getting anyone hurt, but only one of those goals came to fruition.
Jared Wegner, the Razorbacks’ top power hitter and run-producer, injured his thumb in the Razorbacks’ 21-5 victory on Tuesday night and did not play when the Trojans downed Arkansas 11-4 on Wednesday afternoon.
The status of Wegner, who is hitting .351 with 12 home runs and 44 RBIs, for this weekend’s SEC series with No. 16 Tennessee is up in the air.
“I’d say it’s 50-50,” Van Horn said. “He’s got a little fracture in that thumb, little hairline. Broken, whatever you want to call it. He’s very tough. It’s not a clean break or anything, it’s more of a hairline fracture.
“It’s very painful right now, but I think if anybody could handle the pain, it would probably be him. I don’t know yet. We’ll know more tomorrow.
“I don’t think it’ll be until Friday I’ll know if I’m going to write him in the lineup. He’s going to have to show me he can play.”
Arkansas (26-7, 8-4) is set to host Tennessee (23-10, 5-7) on Friday in a 7 p.m. game, Saturday at 6 p.m and Sunday at 2 p.m.
All three games will be televised by the SEC Network.
The Razorbacks won in a rout on Tuesday night, but were humbled Wednesday by the Trojans, who fell behind 3-0 only to respond with 10 unanswered runs.
Arkansas had 13 hits and took 15 walks on Tuesday, but were out-hit 14-6 on Wednesday and the Razorback pitchers issued 9 free passes.
Ben Bybee started for Arkansa and was followed to the mound by Austin Ledbetter, Christian Foutch, Zack Morris and Parker Coil.
“Well, you know… baseball, what a humbling game,” Van Horn said. “You’ve got to show up, you’ve got to play defense and you’ve got to throw strikes.
“And yesterday, Little Rock didn’t do it and today we didn’t do it. We probably walked 9, 10, somewhere in there, hit a couple of people, made a couple of mental mistakes in the field.
One of Arkansas’ two-runs scoring errors came on a “swinging” bunt with the bases loaded that relief pitcher Austin Ledbetter fielded and fell down while throwing wildly to the plate allowing two runs to score.
“Comebacker to the mound, bases loaded, you’ve got to know where you’re going to throw the ball and you don’t have to be told by the catcher and the whole stadium and you get twisted up,” Van Horn said.
The other error came on first baseman Brady Slavens that allows a run to score and Van Horn also noted an ill-advised diving attempt by left fielder Hunter Grimes that let a run in.
“…You don’t dive for that ball, you just let it drop, you know,” Van Horn said. “Cut a relay throw to home plate that was gonna be perfect. The catcher didn’t say anything and that means let it go. You know it just all added up.”
Little Rock head coach Chris Curry, an Arkansas assistant under Van Horn in 2009 and 2010, did not try to hide the joy he felt for his team.
“It was a very big win for our program, obviously,” Curry said. “Any time we get an opportunity to go on the road against a top five club that is in-state and we have so much respect for – and get a win – it’s great.
“And more importantly, and this is not just coach speak, after the way we got punched in the mouth last night. We were down, we were frustrated, we wanted to have a better showing.”
That was talked about by Curry on the bus ride back to the hotel in Fayetteville on Tuesday night.
“The message on the bus going home (the hotel) was ‘you’ve got days like that and it is about your ability to flush it, your ability to move on and not let yesterday beat you today or let it beat you on the weekend.’”
Arkansas took a 3-0 lead in the second on a pair of home runs – Jace Bohrofen’s solo shot for his eight of the season and Slavens’ fourth blast, a two-run bomb.
The Razorbacks have now homered in 29 straight games.
Little Rock tied it in the top of the third when Ty Rhoads single that scored Tyler Williams, another run scored on an Arkansas error and Luke Pectol tied it on a sacrifice fly.
The Trojans would add three runs in the sixth, four in the seventh and another single tally in the eighth.
Ethan McKnight started for Literal Rock and gave up three runs in his two innings, but Austin Stubber pitched 2 1/3 scoreless ones and Kevin Weatherley threw 107 pitches over the final 4 2/3 innings to close out the win.
“Then you give credit to Weatherly,” Van Horn said. “He’s one of their top relievers and he just threw 105 (plus) pitches). They played better than us. They deserved to beat us.”
“Erik McKnight is coming off arm trouble,” Curry said. “He starts and gives up two mammoth home runs -as far as I have ever seen hit in this stadium – and then bounces back. That is the first time he has gone back out for two innings since last October.
“Stubber has struggled, but he comes out of the bullpen and throws strike and then Weatherly takes us home.”
“He was fresh,” Curry said. “And he is built up for that because he has been a starter. Last year, he had the start here and went five scoreless or right along in there.
“So he has been a starter and hasn’t pitched very much leading up to today and he wanted the ball.”
Curry was happy for the opportunity to play Arkansas.
“It is good for college baseball in this state,” Curry said. “It’s not football, it is not basketball. It’s baseball and anything can happen. It is great for the fans, it is great for the young players coming up, it is great for everyone. I think everyone wins in my opinion when we all play each other. And it helps the budget.
“They were very disappointed in their showing last night and we all were,” Curry said. “We were frustrated that we didn’t compete better.
“We know who we are playing and how well they are playing. But you want to compete. The bounce back was the best.”