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Hogs ready to defend SEC crown

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Arkansas beats Kentucky 6-2 to open conference play

From the Arkansas Razorbacks

arkansasrazorbacks.com FAYETTEVILLE – You can win them all if you don’t win the first one.

And that’s just what Arkansas did in the first of 10 3-game SEC baseball series that the Diamond Hogs will play as conference action started up at Baum-Walker Stadium over the weekend.

The Razorbacks, 13-3, hosted the Kentucky Wildcats, 14-4, picking up the win 6-2 Friday evening. Coach Dave Van Horn’s Razorbacks played their first SEC game since last year, a season that saw the Razorbacks winning the SEC, including taking at least 2 of 3 every series and sweeping eventual national champion Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., and winning the SEC Tournament.

In the conference opener, they faced a hard-hitting Kentucky crew (.324 team batting average) coached by Nick Mingione.

“They are very offensive,” Van Horn said.

Kentucky third baseman Chase Estep looms especially offensive batting .471 with seven home runs and 21 RBI while second baseman Daniel Harris bats .391 and first baseman Jacob Plastiak hits .329 with six home runs and 23 RBI.

Statistically Kentucky’s pitching (5.55 team earned run average) doesn’t match its pitching.

Kentucky starters Seth Logue, 1-1, Magdiel Cotto,

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Razorback junior shortstop Robert Moore makes an acrobatic throw to first. In addition to flashing the leather, Moore was handy with the bat in Friday’s SEC opener against Kentucky, with 3 hits and 3 RBIs.

Photo courtesy of the Arkansas Razorbacks RAZORBACKS (cont.)

1-1, and Cole Stupp, 2-0, bear ERA’s of 5.40, 7.70 and 7.71.

Arkansas winning the last eight straight at Baum-Walker, keeps its weekend starting pitching rotation intact.

Senior right-hander Connor Noland, 3-1, 3.52, started Friday’s contest, going 6 1/3, striking out 7 and giving up only a single earned run. (Freshman lefty Hagen Smith, 3-1, 2.66 were scheduled to start Saturday night. Jaxon Wiggins, 2-0, 4.35, was slated for Sunday).

Arkansas sophomore third baseman Cayden Wallace of Greenbrier started the first SEC weekend off being the SEC Co-Player of the Week and the Collegiate Baseball publications National Player of the Week, after hitting three home runs, two were grand slams, in a 4-game series sweep of Illinois-Chicago.

Wallace .333 batting average, and catcher Michael Turner, .369 and four home runs, tie for the team RBI lead at 20.

Designated hitter-outfielder Chris Lanzilli leads for average .375.

While deemed the league’s bluest basketball blue blood, Kentucky baseball generally rates mid pack or lower.

However might the Wildcats taking 2 of 3 from Big 12 baseball power TCU captured Van Horn’s attention?

“Believe me, they’ve already got my attention even if they had lost that series to TCU,” Van Horn said.

“They are always good.”

Besides, Van Horn said, in the SEC standings every SEC game “counts the same.”

“It doesn’t matter who you’re playing,” Van Horn said. “It’s one win or one loss and you get 30 shots at it.”

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