FAYETTEVILLE – No. 4 Arkansas didn't take long to show why it was ranked so high in the preseason.
FAYETTEVILLE – No. 4 Arkansas didn’t take long to show why it was ranked so high in the preseason.
The Razorbacks scored six first-inning runs and junior pitcher D.J. Baxendale threw five scoreless innings to lead the Hogs to an 11-5 season-opening win in front of 6,317 at Baum Stadium.
Arkansas (1-0) racked up 13 hits and controlled the game after its early offensive outburst. Baxendale (1-0) earned the win and improved his streak of scoreless innings to 14, dating back to last season.
“The bats really showed up and scored some runs early and gave me a chance to relax,” Baxendale said. “Overall, it was a great first game as a team.”
Sophomore centerfielder Jacob Morris went 2-for-3 and had three RBIs. His two-run triple was part of the big first inning and he led off the fourth with a solo home run.
“He’s going to play because he’s an outstanding defender and has got a great arm,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “Obviously I don’t expect him to hit like that all the time, but he has power as you saw and can really run with that triple. It will be nice if he hits. That would be a big plus for us.”
Morris batted eighth on Friday. He hit .194 and had just five RBIs in 23 games as a freshman last season.
“I was down in the order a little bit, probably where I belong right now to start the season,” Morris said. “My No. 1 goal was to improve at the plate this year. So I came out and got a couple good pitches and hit them hard.”
Baxendale, a preseason All-American, was on a pitch count and threw 76 pitches in his five innings. He struck out three and allowed four hits while walking one.
He had to work out of a bases-loaded jam in the third inning. Villanova had two runners in scoring position with one out in the fourth, but he kept the Wildcats (0-1) off the board.
“He wasn’t as sharp as he always is,” Van Horn said. “It’s just early and the mound was bothering him a little bit. There was a big hole out there that kind of got chewed up quicker than normal. That’s no excuse, but it just wasn’t real smooth for him.”
Baxendale had the benefit of solid defense behind him, including junior third baseman Matt Reynolds’ diving stop and throw to first to record the third out and strand the two runners in the fourth.
Baxendale also had the advantage of working with a sizable lead after the Hogs’ big first inning.
Arkansas scored the six runs on five hits, taking advantage of two Villanova errors. Senior right fielder Sam Bates’ 2-run double to right field and Morris’ two-run triple to the left-center wall highlighted the inning.
The Razorbacks chased Wildcats starter Kyle Helisek in the bottom of the fourth inning after Morris’ homer and a Reynolds’ RBI double sparked a three-run inning. Helisek allowed nine runs, five earned, on nine hits.
Reynolds had a game-high three hits, while scoring twice and driving in one run for the Razorbacks. He helped the Razorbacks take an 11-1 lead into the seventh inning, when young players and several young players made their debuts.
One of them — freshman left-hander Mark Reyes — replaced Baxendale on the mound in the sixth inning. He allowed four earned runs in just 1 1/3 innings.
He was responsible for three of the runners that scored when sophomore right-hander Colby Suggs gave up a grand slam to Villanova’s Matt Fleishman in the top of the seventh.
The Hogs will start sophomore right-hander Ryne Stanek against the Wildcats today at 1:05 p.m. in the second game of the three-game series.