Hogs Sweep, UCA Gets No-Hitter

Chris Murray Bio
FAYETTEVILLE – Getting to the see the highly touted Arkansas baseball team up close allows one a better assessment of just how talented it might be. But with suspect competition in the Hogs’ season-opening eight-game homestand, it is difficult to gauge just yet.

The Razorbacks (7-1) completed a three-game sweep of the Evansville Purple Aces with a 10-2 win on Sunday. The common denominator throughout the weekend was strong pitching, and overall it was a much stronger performance than in the previous weekend’s set with Western Illinois. With the starters on strict pitch-count limits, it was up to the Arkansas bullpen to deliver, and it once again answered the bell.

On Friday, it was Brandon Moore in his familiar role as long-man, eating up 3 2/3 innings in relief of Ryne Stanek. Moore earned the win, and seems to be comfortable in his bullpen role. With his bowling ball-heavy sinker, Moore was one of the Hogs’ most productive pitchers last season, and would seem to be a candidate to be a weekend starter. Chalk it up to being an instance of “if it ain’t broke …”

Barrett Astin was extra sharp on Saturday, allowing just two hits over six shutout innings. But the Hogs offense stalled, and Evansville pulled even with a run in the eighth. Tyler Spoon won it in the bottom half, connecting for a grand slam over the left-field bleachers. Spoon, a redshirt freshman from Van Buren, ran his team-best RBI total to 13 and is quickly becoming a fan favorite. One suggestion: he should change his walkup music to Soundgarden’s “Spoonman,” whose namesake was apparently a guest at cookouts hosted by a one-time Mariners reliever.

Trey Killian, a true freshman from Mountain Home, dazzled Sunday in his first start. He was perfect through four innings, but an error and two hits led to two unearned runs in the fifth. He hit his pitch-count limit with two outs in the inning, but was still credited with the win, striking out five. It will be interesting to see how Killian progresses, and whether he can contend for the Sunday starting role once SEC play comes along.

Matt Vinson had three hits and scored three times, while Jake Wise drove in three. Jacob Mahan clubbed his first homer. Four relievers pitched 4 1/3 of one-hit baseball.

With the SEC Indoor championships (a sweep for Arkansas’ men and women, by the way) going on at the Randal Tyson Track Center just a few meters away, I suppose it’s reasonable to think the meet siphoned off some baseball fans. Perhaps my expectations were a bit high, but there were more empty seats than one would expect for a top-ranked team playing in sunny, if chilly, conditions. Once the temperatures rise, and the Hogs get into SEC play, expect the empty seats to disappear.

Arkansas plays in the Coca-Cola Classic in Surprise, Ariz., starting Thursday. With two games against Arizona State included in their four-game weekend, the Hogs should get a better test than they had in the homestand.

Central Arkansas’ Bryce Biggerstaff on Sunday against Jackson State tossed the school’s second no-hitter, falling short of a perfect game only due to a sixth-inning hit batter, while also striking out nine. Biggerstaff was a prep standout at Central Arkansas Christian before heading to Southern Arkansas, where he pitched in 2010. He sat out in 2011 as a transfer, and pitched in limited action for the Bears in 2012.

Biggerstaff’s gem capped an unusual weekend sweep for the Bears, who defeated Jackson State on Friday and Sunday, and topped the Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday. The Bears are now 6-1 and have midweek games Tuesday and Wednesday against Mississippi Valley State in Conway.

Arkansas State took two of three from Western Illinois this weekend to improve to 6-1 on the season. The two teams split a Saturday doubleheader before the Red Wolves banged out 14 hits in a 14-6 victory. Preseason all-Sun Belt pick Logan Uxa went 3-for-4 with a three-run homer. ASU travels to Nashville on Tuesday to take on Vanderbilt.

Baseball jam: Frankly, there is no better rock band than Texas’ Centro-matic. Frontman Will Johnson is also a huge baseball fan, and has painted dozens of works of baseball-related art, many of which are available here. Here’s a Centro video showing Johnson painting, though it’s not a baseball work.

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