Saturday was not a good day for Arkansas’ pitching staff. In game two of the Hogs’ weekend series with Louisiana Tech a strong wind blew straight out to left field and the Bulldogs’ hitters took full advantage. Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn sent a total of eight Razorbacks to the mound. When it was all over the visitors had pounded out 11 hits while scoring 12 runs on the back of three home runs. It was easily the worst day of the season for Arkansas’ staff which went into the game with an ERA of just over 3.
Still the Hogs found themselves down just 9-7 going into the top of the 9th. But there was more trouble brewing. Jacob Burton, a freshman right-hander from Diana, Texas was on in relief of Caden Monke, a freshman lefty who had given up a one-out single and before hitting a batter.
Burton struck out the first man he faced but then issued a three-run home run to left leaving Arkansas in a huge hole. On his next pitch Burton rocketed a fastball off of catcher Chris Clayton’s batting helmet. The home plate umpire immediately reacted. Pointing at the mound he ejected Buton from the game with a sweeping gesture toward the Hogs’ dugout. Several Louisiana Tech players came out of their own dugout and for a moment it looked like there might be trouble.
The coaches and umpires quickly defused the situation but Van Horn argued against the ejection at length before finally returning to Arkansas’ dugout where he watched his team go quietly on a walk and three strikouts to end the game with a 12-7 loss.
Monday Van Horn was still fuming after it was announced by the SEC office that Burton would serve a four-game suspension.
“The two coaches are friends. There was no chirping at all between the two teams,” Van Horn stressed. “I don’t want anybody thinking that we’re throwing at anybody.”
Did Van Horn think the home plate umpire would have been better off warning both benches?
“Yes, if he had stood out there instead of running out and screaming, ‘You’re out of the game.’ ” Van Horn answered. “It got a little nuts. I felt like the way he acted, he acted like there was a problem and there wasn’t a problem. The problem was a kid got hit and he was hurt. We needed to check on him. I think it incited it a little bit. I just didn’t like it.”
Van Horn did like the way his team bounced back on Sunday, pounding the Bulldogs 11-0 to take the series two games to one. Four Arkansas pitchers combined to toss the three-hit shutout, recording 16 strikeouts along the way.
It was the best outing of Cody Scroggins’ career. The redshirt junior from Bentonville gave up just two hits in six innings of work with 11 strikeouts and a single walk, assuring himself of a Sunday start in Arkansas’ SEC opening series against Missouri. After the game Scroggins admitted his arm was a little sore after the steady diet of sliders he offered to Louisiana Tech’s hitters.
“Cody loves the slider,” Van Horn said with a smile. “If you give Scroggins a chance to pick his own pitch he’s gonna pick that one about eight out of ten times. When Cody is pitching and (Casey) Opitz is catching, we give Opitz an opportunity to call most of the pitches. He’s got a good feel back there. But he’ll (Scroggins) be fine. He doesn’t pitch for week so he’ll be fine by his next bullpen.”
As of Monday Missouri was 9-5 with a 3-2 record on the road. The Tigers are coming off of a three game sweep of Northwestern (4-9) at home.
Arkansas is 12-2 on the season with a 10-1 record at home.