FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas first baseman Eric Fisher can’t really explain his recent success at the plate over the past two weeks.
Then again, the junior doesn’t have any desire to figure it out. There’s no reason to mess with a good thing after hitting five home runs in Arkansas’ past nine games.
“I feel good,” Fisher said after smashing another home run in Wednesday afternoon. “Obviously I still have bad at bats here and there, but overall every time up at the plate I feel good and feel confident about myself. I think it’s taking me a long way.”
Fisher’s hot streak has been a key component in what has become a power surge for the Razorbacks, who step back into Southeastern Conference play when they open a three-game series against Auburn (23-19, 7-11 in SEC) in Baum Stadium tonight.
Arkansas (27-16, 9-9 in SEC) has hit 10 home runs over the past 11 games and Fisher responsible for half of them. He has a team-leading seven home runs this season, which has easily topped the two Fisher in his first two seasons.
His home run total is tied for third in the SEC.
“It’s unbelievable,” Arkansas second baseman Brian Anderson said. “Any time you see a guy that’s at the plate and just calm, relaxed, the ball looks huge to him. You can tell. It just looks like a beach ball coming in. It’s nice having a guy on the team that you know can hit the ball out of any park at any time.”
Arkansas catcher Jake Wise thought Fisher was going to be that guy when they arrived on campus before the 2011 season. He noticed a big, strong athlete who had plenty of home run pop. But it didn’t pan out as expected.
The Spring, Texas native played in 18 games as a true freshman, then redshirted the 2012 season. He was a regular in the lineup last year, but hit .238 with 2 home runs.
Fisher still was taken in the 30th-round of the 2013 Major League Baseball Draft, but opted to return to Arkansas this season. He got off to a good start after hitting a home run in the season-opening series. Then his struggles at the plate returned.
In fact, Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn specifically pointed to Fisher — who is hitting .233 and ranks second on the team with 31 RBIs — as a player that had to get going if the Razorbacks were going to have success.
It’s clear how valuable Fisher is to the Razorbacks after his performance lately.
“When he gets extension the ball jumps off his bat,” Van Horn said. “That pitch (Wednesday), he got the barrel out there with extension and it just jumped out here against the wind and went over the back wall and hit about 30 feet in the air and just shot out of here. He’s just strong. He’s an older kid and he’s confident and when he puts a good swing on the ball and makes solid contact it’s getting out of the park.”
Fisher has teamed with designated hitter Blake Baxendale to give Arkansas a much-needed jolt in the middle of its order. The Razorbacks had just nine home runs in their first 32 games before the recent string of success.
Fisher’s power streak began at LSU, when he hit a home run in the fifth inning of each game. He couldn’t add to it in a midweek win against Stephen F. Austin, but hit another home run in the series opener against Vanderbilt last Friday.
It gave Fisher four home runs in four consecutive conference games.
He cooled off the rest of the series and went without a home run in the midweek opener against Northwestern State. But he snapped the three-game drought with a two-run shot in the third inning to help Arkansas bury the Demons.
“I don’t know,” Fisher said when asked Wednesday to explain what has changed at the plate. “I mean, just kind of staying in my legs and really trying to drive the ball and just kind of getting good pitches to swing at and putting a good swing on them. I’m hitting the bottom half of the ball and it’s getting out.”
Fisher won’t come close to the school record for home runs in a season, which is held by Ryan Lundquist (24 in 1997). But he has a chance to become the first player to reach the 10-home run mark since Kyle Robinson accomplished it in 2011, which is significant in an era where home runs aren’t common in college baseball.
Wise said it’s clear Fisher is finally relaxed at the plate. And it’s paying off for Arkansas, which has watched Fisher develop into a home run threat.
“I think the last couple weeks you’re seeing him get comfortable and he’s one of those guys in the fall when he got hot he was really, really hard to get out,” Wise said. “When he gets hot like he has been the last couple weeks, any swing he takes he can probably get it out of the yard.”