FAYETTEVILLE — No. 1 Arkansas bounced back from its first loss of the season by sweeping New Orleans in a doubleheader Tuesday at Baum Stadium.
The Razorbacks shut out the Privateers for 16 innings as Arkansas beat New Orleans 14-0 in the first game, a seven-inning win shortened by the 10-run rule, before closing out the day with and 3-0 victory.
Colin Poche pitched well for the Razorbacks and earned the win in the first game of the doubleheader. Poche (1-0) was suspended for the season-opening series against Western Illinois, but made his first appearance and first start for Arkansas (4-1) against New Orleans (0-5). He tossed five scoreless innings, allowing one hit while striking out six batters.
The freshman southpaw said he was “just a little” nervous for his debut.
“Once I got on the mound and threw that first strike, I realized it’s back to baseball,” Poche said. “It’s the same game you’ve been playing your whole life, there are just more people out there.
“I felt great. I had a lot of fun out there. My teammates came out and gave me a five-spot. As a pitcher, your mindset doesn’t really change. You go out there like the score is 0-0 and try to get ahead of batters and get out of there as quick as you can so your teammates can go back out there and put more runs on the board.”
Cade Lynch also made his first appearance of the season, relieving Poche. He pitched the final two innings without allowing a run or a hit.
Trey Killian had been slated to start the second game, but he pitched Friday night against Western Illinois. Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn elected to start freshman Landon Simpson after it was announced the New Orleans series would be played as a doubleheader. Simpson (1-0) tossed three scoreless innings in his Razorback debut before Colby Suggs took over in relief.
Like Poche, Suggs missed the first series of the season, but because of a strained oblique. Suggs threw just one hitless inning before sophomore left-hander Gunn took over on the mound.
“We just wanted to get (Suggs) in the game,” Van Horn said. “We didn’t want him in the save situation where he is up there doing what he does, which is snorting and grunting and getting after it. We just wanted him to pitch, calmly go out there and get some work in.
“We would have liked for him to throw more strikes, but he made it through the game, didn’t get hurt, so I think he’s good to go and we’ll have him for this weekend.”
The Razorbacks host Evansville for a three-game series starting at 3:05 p.m. Friday, followed by games at 1:05 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Van Horn said Killian would start during the series.
Gunn, who started the second game as a designated hitter, pitched four innings, allowing just one hit and striking out six of the 13 batters he faced.
“I’m just glad I got to help my team win today,” Gunn said. “We didn’t have a great offensive game like we did in the first game, but we battled and pulled it off.
“Freshman year I was kind of wild, I’ll admit. It’s after freshman year, so it’s time to grow up. You’ve got to start staying within yourself and establishing the strike zone and throwing it wherever you want to.”
The Razorbacks led 15 of the 16 innings played Tuesday. Redshirt freshman Tyler Spoon put Arkansas on the scoreboard in the first inning of opener with his first career home run. In the second game of the twin bill, Gunn doubled and eventually scored on an RBI single by Jake Wise in the second inning.
Arkansas began Tuesday by sending 10 batters to the plate and grabbing a 5-0 lead. Brett McAfee, batting ninth, hit an RBI single and Matt Vinson, Eric Fisher, Brian Anderson and Willie Schwanke all scored runs in the first.
Spoon, from Van Buren, drove in Joe Serrano in the second inning with an RBI single as Arkansas scored a combined five runs in the second and third innings to extend its lead to double digits.
“Offensively, we took advantage of the walks and hit the ball over the park,” Van Horn said. “The wind was blowing out and we hit the ball hard and took control early with that five runs in the first and let the pitchers get it done from there.”
In the second game, the Razorbacks pieced together their other two runs when Anderson scored on a ground out in the sixth and Jacob Morris scored on a throwing error in the seventh.
“In the second game, any time you score 14 runs and get a bunch of hits and have another game, I knew it would be tight,” Van Horn said. “Very rarely do you go double digits two games in a row on the same day. We were trying to find a way to manufacture runs. We couldn’t quite get that big hit.
“Good two wins. We played pretty good defense all day and outstanding pitching by Gunn there. I thought Simpson had a really good outing as well.”
Van Horn said the freshmen have shown already that will be a major role for the Diamond Hogs this season.
“You talk about Spoon and some of these guys are already big-time contributors,” Van Horn said. “On the mound, we have younger guys who can pitch between Killian and Poche and we haven’t even thrown Oliver yet. They’re still battling to get on the field, which is good. It’s a lot of competition among teammates.”