by Nate Allen
FAYETTEVILLE – With an Arkansas 11-4 victory halted upon 4 1-2 innings of rain and ever wetter grounds Sunday at Baum-Walker Stadium, Coach Dave Van Horn’s nationally No. 1 (Monday’s D1 Baseball and Baseball America’s polls) now 7-0 Razorbacks completed a 4-game sweep of the Ohio Valley Conference’s Southeast Missouri State (SEMO) Redhawks.
The previous weekend sweeping nationally Nos. 3 Texas Tech, No. 9 Texas and No. 10 TCU at the State Farm College Baseball Showdown of three SEC West teams playing three Big 12 teams at the Texas Rangers’ Global Life Field in Arlington, Texas, Arkansas had to come from behind to beat SEMO, 6-5 Thursday in 10 innings, and 7-3 Friday before routing the Redhawks, building a 9-0 lead winning 9-3 Saturday and Sunday scoring six in the fourth adding on to the eventual 11-4 rain-shortened triumph that Van Horn and SEMO Coach Andy Sawyers concurred needed to cease for safety’s sake.
“Obviously the conditions on the field were pretty bad, really from about the second inning on,” Van Horn said. “It started getting slick on the mound. Both pitchers were having trouble with their front plant foot.”
Van Horn took that into account reviewing Sunday starter Lael Lockhart’s overall 3 1-3 performance not measuring up to his start last Monday vs. TCU.
“We feel like Lockhart is going to be fine,” Van Horn said. “He didn’t pitch good in the mud, basically. He was good in the bullpen, he was good in the first inning and then the ball got wet. We think he threw the ball pretty good.”
Of the four starters against SEMO, only Benton’s Peyton Pallette, winning Saturday with a 3-hit shutout and eight strikeouts vs. a walk through five complete innings, pitched as effectively as the previous week when Zebulon Vermillion and Lockhart started against TCU and Thursday starter Caleb Bolden didn’t survive the first SEMO inning after no-hitting Texas through four in relief.
“”He (Pallette) just has a really classic arm action,”Van Horn said. “He’s all around that zone. He doesn’t have a lot of bad misses with his fast ball. It’s going to be around the zone. He did a great job. He went out and pitched the second, third, and fourth inning with a four-run lead, six-run lead, eight-run lead and kept his concentration and did what he needed to do.”
Debuting against SEMO in relief after idled in Arlington, regular 2019 and 2020 pitchers Patrick Wicklander and Connor Noland pitched well.
Wicklander pitched four shutout innings scattering four hits upon relieving Bolden Thursday and was effectively followed by Ryan Costieu, Caden Monke, Evan Gray and Jaxon Wiggins’ save striking out the side in the 10th.
Noland of Greenwood threw 4 2-3 in relief Friday allowing just two hits and a run striking out five vs. no walks.
“The stuff that Connor had today was probably the best I’ve seen him have since he’s been here, when you really look at everything combined,” Van Horn said. “Velocity, location of his fastball, then breaking ball had a lot of, it just had really good depth.”
Against “a good Southeast Missouri team (2-4 having won 2 of 3 at South Alabama before venturing to Fayetteville) that honestly might win their league,” Van Horn said, the Razorbacks totaled 49 hits for the four games batting only four innings in the finale. They hit 10 home runs for the series.
Preseason All-American center Christian Franklin clouted one per day the first three SEMO games.
Freshman right fielder Cayden Wallace of Greenbrier and transfer first baseman/third baseman Brady Slavens hit two each. Preseason All-SEC designated hitter Matt Goodheart of Magnolia, debuting after missing the Arlington trip with a “stomach issue”, second baseman Robert Moore and junior transfer Charlie Welch all homered once.
“It was good to hit some home runs,” Van Horn said. “It’s nice to hit the ball over somebody’s head, hit some doubles, not just singles. We feel like there’s some guys up and down that lineup that can juice the ball.”
The Hogs suffered a scare when Preseason All-SEC catcher Casey Opitz was removed from Sunday’s game woozy from base-running colliding with SEMO’s first baseman.
“He’s doing well,” Van Horn said. “He passed all the concussion protocols, the tests. Looks good there. He did kind of hurt his wrist a little bit when he went down. But there was no breaks or anything. He looks like he’s going to be OK.”
The Razorbacks next host Murray State on 3 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday at Baum-Walker Stadium.