FAYETTEVILLE – Other than against Christian Franklin, the now 2-20, the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions pitched better against the nationally No. 1 University of Arkansas Razorbacks Tuesday night at Baum-Walker Stadium than the then nationally No. 3 Ole Miss Rebels pitched Sunday in Oxford, Miss.
With junior center fielder Franklin, 3 for 4 including a 3-run home run, a double and six RBI, Coach Dave Van Horn’s Razorbacks, 27-5, eventually handily won, 12-4 Tuesday’s opener of a 2-game nonconference series against UAPB of the Southwest Athletic Conference, but with nine hits and drawing six walks didn’t approach their 13-hits, drawing 17 walks in Sunday’s surprising 18-14 slugfest over the SEC West Rebels in Oxford.
“That was a pretty well played game,” Van Horn said giving Coach Carlos James’ Golden Lions their due. “It went real fast there for a while.
I thought their starter, (Joel) Barker, he threw a lot of strikes. He really didn’t give us anything. He didn’t walk anybody. I think he might have hit one batter. He kind of kept us off balance, flipping it up there a lot different what we’ve seen. And we knew that was coming, but he did a nice job keeping them in the game.”
Until Franklin took it away.
“I thought he had a great night,” Van Horn said of his right-hand hitting center fielder. “He really stuck with the approach. He stayed through the middle of the field. He singled to center field. I think his double was to left-center and his home run was to almost dead right field, straight away right field.”
Adjusting to slower SWAC pitching off SEC mid 90s heat, Razorbacks hitting coach Nate Thompson stressed hitting to the opposite field.
“We worked on driving the ball to the opposite field so we wouldn’t get out front,” Franklin said. “And we knew we could turn on inside pitches if we got them. Just having a good approach and getting a good pitch to hit and we were able to do what we were able to. Coach Thompson does a really good job preparing us for all types of pitching.”
Coaches and players seemed surprisingly primed given Sunday’s emotional 4 and a half hours conclusion to taking 2 of 3 at Ole Miss.
“Yeah, it was a super emotional win Sunday, long game,” Franklin said. “It was a fun bus ride back but we had to focus up and get ready for this midweek series and I think our team does a good job being locked in.
Arkansas winning starter Caleb Bolden scattered seven hits and struck out nine through five complete Tuesday and handed a 4-1 lead to Cabot’s Zack Morris who pitched a scoreless sixth and seventh.
Robert Moore’s single and Franklin’s double set the table for two Arkansas first-inning runs vs. losing starter Joel Barker on Brady Slavens’ unusual sacrifice fly, caught by the shortstop, and Ethan Bates’ RBI single.
“I thought it was a head’s up play,” Van Horn said of Moore tagging up on the shortstop caught fly. “What he (Moore) saw, and what (third base coach) Coach Thompson saw over there is that the shortstop just continued to drift back under the ball, and his momentum was going away from the plate.”
Franklin singled home two more in the second.
Arkansas scored five in the seventh, including a Franklin bases-loaded RBI walk, and finished with Franklin’s 3-run home run in the eighth.
Justin Rieschick’s RBI single in the fifth registered UAPB’s first run.
The Golden Lions scored three in the eighth on Dante Leach’s bases-loaded triple vs. reliever Gabriel Starks.
Heston Tole pitched a scoreless ninth.
Morris, Starks, and Tole combined for nine strikeouts the final four innings adding to Bolden’s nine through five.
“ Caleb got us off to a good start,” Van Horn said. “He threw a lot of strikeouts and they’ve got a couple of guys at the top of the lineup that can swing the bat.”
The Razorbacks and Golden Lions conclude their 2-game series at 4 p.m. today leading into Arkansas hosting Texas A&M in a 3-game SEC West series at 6:30 p.m. Friday, 6:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday while UAPB hosts Texas Southern at 3 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday at the Torii Hunter Baseball Complex in Pine Bluff.