FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas baseball pitcher D.J. Baxendale is obviously disappointed. The junior, who has enjoyed an enormous amount of success throughout his Arkansas career, endured his worst start last Friday. Mississippi State beat up the Razorbacks' ace, scoring eight runs in four innings.
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas baseball pitcher D.J. Baxendale is obviously disappointed. The junior, who has enjoyed an enormous amount of success throughout his Arkansas career, endured his worst start last Friday. Mississippi State beat up the Razorbacks’ ace, scoring eight runs in four innings.
It was tough for Baxendale to relive Wednesday. But it’s over.
“It happens. It’s baseball,” Baxendale said. “It’s not my first bad outing. It’s not going to be my last bad outing.
“Sometimes you just have those days where no matter what happens, no matter what you do, things aren’t going to go your way.”
Baxendale (5-1, 4.15 ERA) is determined to make sure it doesn’t happen for a second straight start when No. 3 Arkansas (22-3, 3-0 in Southeastern Conference) opens a three-game series at No. 15 LSU (18-6, 3-3) tonight. The right-hander is planning to give the Razorbacks a leg up on the road by rebounding from his worst outing with the Hogs.
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn remains confident Baxendale will deliver.
“He wants to help the team win,” Van Horn said. “He’s disappointed with the way it’s gone the last couple of weeks, last weekend for sure. My mindset with him is that he’s ready to get the ball on Friday and turn it around. … I think that he’ll give us great effort.”
It’s an unusual position for Baxendale, though, considering his roughest outing prior to last Friday came in a relief stint against Kentucky in 2010. The freshman came out of the bullpen and allowed seven runs in two-thirds of an inning. Arkansas did win the game 17-16.
He was tough to score on last season, compiling a 10-2 record with a 1.58 ERA. Baxendale surrendered 19 runs in 19 appearances.
So what went wrong last Friday? Van Horn explained Wednesday, saying Baxendale experienced a mechanical flaw with his delivery.
“His arm slot got a little low and his ball really flattened out,” Van Horn said. “Hopefully he can get off to a good start and get his confidence going. He’s got good stuff. It’s just a matter of doing it.”
Baxendale said the rigors of the season can be blamed for some of the problems. But he’s worked hard with pitching coach Dave Jorn this week to make sure his arm angle remains consistent when he’s on the mound tonight.
“As the season goes on, you kind of get tired where you don’t necessarily do everything that you’d normally do in the fall as far as working on your mechanics,” Baxendale said. “We’ve worked on really getting back down to the core and really just solidifying the mechanics so that every time I’ll have a chance to make the pitch.”
The good news for Arkansas is that the Friday night loss didn’t cost it the series at Mississippi State. Starter Ryne Stanek helped the Razorbacks regain control Saturday, throwing 6 1/3 scoreless innings in Arkansas’ 8-0 win. The Razorbacks then won the series finale.
Stanek said he watched Baxendale struggle on Friday night and knew the responsibility was on his shoulders. He delivered in winning his eighth straight start dating back to last season.
“It’s my job to go out there and try to kill the momentum,” Stanek said. “Normally DJ is going to get the momentum for us and I’m just there to keep it rolling. But in a situation like that, just go out there and kill their momentum and get it going in our favor for Sunday.” Baxendale said it’s nice knowing Stanek, who leads the SEC in wins (6) and ERA (1.25) entering the weekend series is behind him in the rotation in case the Razorbacks suffer a Friday night loss. He doesn’t want to make it a habit the rest of the season, though.
“One guy can have a bad outing and we can overcome it. That’s one thing that you have to look forward to,” Baxendale said. “But it’s also not something you want to fall back on every time. So hopefully I can help Stanek alleviate some of the stress this weekend.”
Arkansas is trying to win its third straight series against SEC West opponents this weekend. The Hogs also are looking for their second straight series win against LSU after last season’s sweep.
Winning in Baton Rouge isn’t easy, though. Arkansas has one road series victory against the Tigers, sweeping LSU in Baton Rouge in 2004.
Baxendale plans to do everything he can to make it happen again.
“You’ve got 10 SEC series,” Baxendale said about his struggles in Starkville, Miss. “That was the second one of the year. I’ve got eight more. By the end of May, come the end of June, nobody is even going to remember that Mississippi State outing.”