Nate Allen Sports
FAYETTEVILLE – It wouldn’t have taken much for the Western Illinois Leathernecks to improve their .184 team batting average.
But they sure couldn’t do it against Arkansas starter Patrick Wicklander and relievers Kole Ramage, Jacob Kostyshock, Kevin Kopps and Matt Cronin that followed
For his five complete innings, of the Razorbacks’ 8-0 victory Tuesday night before 1,117 at Baum-Walker Stadium, freshman lefty Wicklander, now 2-1, allowed one hit, and struck out eight and walked one.
Ramage, Kostyshock, Kopps and Cronin each threw a hitless inning and combined for another six strikeouts in the group effort 1-hitter.
The previous mid-week game last week Wicklander threw a 5-inning 1-hitter with eight strikeouts vs. three walks defeating Charlotte, 9-2.
“I’m feeling pretty good, pretty confident going into conference play,” Wicklander said with Coach Dave Van Horn’s Razorbacks, 13-2 playing the 4-9 Leathernecks of the Missouri Valley Conference at 3 p.m, then opening their SEC season Friday through Sunday hosting Missouri in a 3-game series at Baum-Walker.
What worked for Wicklander in his repertoire against WIU?
“I was throwing everything,” Wicklander said. “Getting ahead with my fast ball and kind of started pitching backwards later in the game.”
Meanwhile among Arkansas’ 11 hits, Heston Kjerstad went 4 for 4 with a triple, a 2-run home run, two singles and a hit by pitch while Casey Martin went 2 for 5 with a home run, his third for the last three games, and a double.
Kjerstad singled his last at bat in the eighth, one base short of the double that would have had him be the first Razorback to hit the cycle for Arkansas since Kyle Harris for retired Coach Norm DeBriyn’s Razorbacks in 1994.
“Everyone was telling me ‘Just get a double,” Kjerstad said. “I think Dom (center fielder Dominic Fletcher) started it saying, ‘Hey, you just need a double for the cycle.’ I said, ‘Thanks for reminding me, man. And then all the pitchers were giving me a little hitting advice to help me out.”
Certainly a home run, triple and two singles sufficed.
“It made me feel good helping the team out and get a few more runs on the board for us,” Kjerstad said.
Razorbacks knocking in a run each aside from Martin included Jacob Nesbit, bunt single, Trevor Ezell, groundout scoring Kjerstad for Arkansas’ first run after his first career triple, Jordan McFarland, sacrifice fly, Casey Optiz, bases-loaded was, and Jack Kenley, sacrifice fly.
The hit by WIU’s Drue Galassi charged against Wicklander was an infield hit to Ezell. Ezell tested his shoulder surgery repaired arm as a second baseman but apparently it’s still not up to par.
Hard-hitting Bryant native Ezell came to Arkansas as a graduate transfer second baseman from Southeast Missouri State but has played first base for the Razorbacks because of last summer’s shoulder surgery. Though turning in a fine play on the first ball hit to him, Ezell, one error, didn’t appear yet up to second baseman throwing form and was replaced in the sixth inning by regular second baseman Kenley.
“He (Ezell) fielded the ball well but his arm’s got a long way to go,” Van Horn said. “It’s not even 50 percent. I just wanted him to be able to play over there a little bit in case we got in a bind.”
Junior 2-year letterman McFarland started at first and went 1 for 3 with a sacrifice fly and may be today’s designated hitter, Van Horn said, with Ezell back at first and Kenley back at second.
Nate Allen Sports