CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Arkansas only hoped for three innings of relief out of pitcher Jalen Beeks during the Charlottesville Regional.
The junior gave the Razorbacks much more than that at Davenport Field on Sunday.
Beeks threw five scoreless innings during Arkansas’ 10-0 win against Bucknell, helping the Razorbacks advance to the regional championship against top-seed Virginia. The left-hander allowed three hits and struck out nine, giving Arkansas a quality start it desperately needed to stay alive in the regional.
“I was ready for anything,” Beeks said. “I knew I was going to have to pitch, especially after we lost (Saturday). We had to win three games. So I knew I was going to have to pitch, I just didn’t know where.”
Beeks got the call a month after his last start at Ole Miss on May 3. Beeks felt soreness in his elbow during the outing and was shut down for three weeks, missing starts against Texas A&M, Missouri and in the SEC Tournament.
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn left Davenport Field on Saturday night believing freshman Zach Jackson or James Teague would start against Bucknell. But he soon announced Beeks would take the mound against Bucknell.
The junior delivered, tying his career high with nine strikeouts. He threw 77 pitches.
“We really didn’t know who to pitch,” Van Horn said. “We knew we were going to use Jalen sometime unless things just went incredibly well. The more that I talked to (pitching) coach (Dave) Jorn about it, I wanted somebody that had started. I mean, we lose this game we’re done. And Bucknell, they were coming off a big win. … Just thinking we need to be safe and maybe he can give us 50, 60 pitches. He ended up throwing 75 or whatever. He basically wouldn’t let us take him out after the fourth.”
Jackson Lowery replaced Beeks for the sixth inning. The right-hander threw four scoreless innings to help the Razorbacks secure their 10th shutout.
“I actually hadn’t felt any pain the last three or four days, so I really didn’t know what to expect,” Beeks said. “I just told them I’d go as long as I can because I know we have to save pitching to get through these next two games.”
Beeks and Lowery had plenty of help from an Arkansas lineup that bounced back from Saturday’s two-hit performance in the loss to Virginia.
Van Horn made two changes to his lineup Saturday, sliding K.J. Wilkerson into the designated hitter role and starting Alex Gosser behind the plate in place of Jake Wise. Wilkerson and Gosser each strengthened the bottom of Arkansas’ lineup, coming through with RBI singles during a four-run first inning.
“it worked out good early for sure,” Van Horn said. “The first inning, some of the new guys got a chance to hit and they hit.”
Every Arkansas starter had at least one hit as the Razorbacks equaled their season-high with 16. Brian Anderson led the Razorbacks by going 3 for 3 with a triple, while Clark Eagan went 3 for 6. Eric Fisher also went 2 for 4 with two RBIs.
“I thought they had a great approach offensively,” Bucknell coach Scott Heather said. “I think if they take that into (Sunday night), they’re going to have a good shot at winning.”
Arkansas (40-24) will play Virginia (46-13) at 7 p.m. Sunday. The Razorbacks — who have reached a regional final for the sixth straight season — would have to beat the Cavaliers Sunday night and again Monday to advance to an NCAA Super Regional.
Arkansas will send Jackson (2-2, 1.80 ERA) to the mound for his second postseason start. Virginia will throw left-hander Brandon Waddell (7-3, 2.73 ERA).
“I know they’ve got another good one going (Sunday night) and they’ve got two or three more good ones that are ready to go,” Van Horn said. “They’ve got a lot of pitching and a lot of momentum. We’re going to have to play a perfect game (Sunday night).”