Perhaps the Arkansas trip to Arizona was a necessary poison.
The Razorbacks lost four straight to Arizona State, Gonzaga and Pacific on the trip earlier this month and needed alarm bells to ring to get ready for Southeastern Conference play.
Consider the horn sounded.
Arkansas racked up a season-high 18 hits in a 13-0 shutout of Alabama A&M to close out the two-game series at Baum Stadium on Wednesday.
That makes 51 runs scored and eight runs allowed over the past six games - all wins - since the disastrous trip to the desert. Coach Dave Van Horn is happy with the bounce-back.
“I think confidence is definitely up,” he said. “What happened in Arizona, it’s history, but it definitely opened some eyes and I think it made some guys realize they need to work a little bit harder. It’s done and I think the guys did a great job finding a way to win six games in a row, no matter who you play.”
All nine starters collected a hit against the Bulldogs on Wednesday, paced by Brian Anderson’s four. He finished 4-for-5, with a pair of runs and a pair of RBIs. Will Schwanke, Jordan Farris and Jacob Morris all came off the bench and had a hit, too.
It was the sort of game Van Horn could afford to get a closer look at some of his reserves. Other than injured second baseman Dominic Ficociello, the Razorbacks lineup consisted of regulars until the middle innings when Van Horn went to his bench. Of the seven Arkansas pitchers used, only Barrett Astin - who pitched the final two-thirds of an inning - didn’t register a strikeout.
Chris Oliver made the most of his first appearance since a Feb. 22 against Evansville with his start against Alabama A&M. He worked three innings, allowed one hit and struck out five. The only other Alabama A&M hit came in the seventh against Colby Suggs.
“I thought Oliver threw extremely well,” Van Horn said. “That’s the best he’s pitched since he’s been here. His velocity was outstanding. That was probably the best thing, in my opinion, that went on today. I think he had something to prove today and when he got a chance to pitch, he did a great job.”
The Razorbacks opened the trip back from Arizona with a shutout against San Diego State and closed the non-conference portion of the current nine-game homestand with another, their fourth overall during the year. Arkansas pitchers combined for 13 strikeouts and the two hits allowed were also a season-low.
Arkansas was retired in order just twice - in the second and eighth. It was the only two innings in which the Razorbacks didn’t score. The team’s 18 hits were three more than its previous season-high of 15, picked up against Evansville on Feb. 24. Wednesday’s biggest inning came in the fifth when Arkansas batted around and picked up five runs on six hits.
Matt Vinson returned to the Arkansas lineup after making a lone pinch-running appearance in the series against San Diego State and knocked in one of the five runs in the span.
“Any time we can go up there and have good at-bats and put up numbers like that, it always gives us confidence,” Vinson said. “I don’t know if four losses is ever a good thing, but it might have gave us a little wake-up call.”
Tyler Spoon, who saw his 16-game hitting streak end Tuesday, extended his streak of reaching base to 18 straight games with a single in the fifth.
Arkansas opens its SEC season at home Friday against Ole Miss, ranked No. 7 by Baseball America and No. 11 in the Collegiate Baseball Poll.