FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas hasn’t had the luxury of relaxing in the late innings with seven of its past 10 games decided by one run.
So an 8-0 win against Grambling State was a welcome sight to coach Dave Van Horn.
“That was nice,” Van Horn said. “We got off to a good start there in the first inning, scored a couple of runs. Scored three more in the third and had the game pretty much under control. … It was good to get a win and get ready for Alabama.”
The Razorbacks (11-7) wrapped the two-game series of the Tigers (3-17) by winning their third straight in front of an announced crowd of 1,262 in Baum Stadium. Arkansas collected 12 hits off eight Grambling State pitchers, while four Razorbacks combined to post the team’s second shutout.
First baseman Eric Fisher led the way by going 4-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI, while center fielder Tyler Spoon and second baseman Brian Anderson each collected two hits and drove in two runs. The trio helped the Razorbacks rough up Grambling State starter Brock Baker (0-3), who had allowed 21 earned runs in 16 2/3 innings.
It was much easier than the 4-3 win in Tuesday’s series opener, when the Razorbacks scored early and had to hold on late.
“It’s different pitching than what we see,” Van Horn said. “It’s a lot of off-speed and the velocity is slower than we’re used to and it’s hard sometimes for our hitters to make those adjustments. They did a little better job (Wednesday).”
Arkansas put two runs on the board in the first inning with an RBI single by Spoon, who was driven in by Fisher’s first double. The Razorbacks added to it in the third when four straight batters reached base before Baker went to the dugout.
Anderson got the first big hit when he tripled off the outfield wall to score left fielder Clark Eagan. Spoon drove Anderson in with a single and Fisher added his second RBI double to give Arkansas a 5-0 lead.
Fisher’s four hits were a career high. He reached base in each of his five plate appearances.
“It’s always nice getting hits and building confidence,” said Fisher, who raised his batting average from .190 to .242. “It carries over to the next at bat and allows you to feel better at the plate.”
The Razorbacks added three more runs in the sixth inning, scoring the first on an RBI single by Anderson. Reliever David Allen came out of the bullpen with two on and one out to face Fisher, but walked him to load the bases. Then Allen hit designated hitter K.J. Wilkerson and catcher Jake Wise to allow two more runs.
Arkansas’ batters were hit by five pitches Wednesday, increasing the season total to 38 in 18 games. The Razorbacks were hit by pitches 36 times in 61 games in 2013.
“We are not going to hit five home runs a game so you have got to get on base any way you can,” said Anderson, who was hit twice. “That’s going to require you to wear pitches for the team. We have done a good job of it so far.”
The support was more than enough for Arkansas starter Alex Phillips (1-0), who threw three scoreless innings before Van Horn went to the bullpen to get others some work. Phillips, who earned his third start, picked up his first win.
“The first inning he was just OK, then after that he picked it up a little,” Van Horn said. “His velocity got better like he had to loosen up. His third inning might have been his best inning. The last inning. He could have continued on.”
Jackson Lowery also turned in a solid relief effort, allowing two hits in three innings. Dominic Taccolini and Landon Simpson combined to keep Grambling State scoreless the rest of the game. The Tigers finished with seven hits and had nine baserunners.
The Razorbacks will be back on the field Friday at 6:35 p.m. to open its three-game series against Alabama (14-6, 2-1 in SEC).
“I’m really looking forward to it, first SEC home game and they’re a good team,” said pitcher Jalen Beeks, who will start the series opener. “We know they’re going to battle. … We have really come together and we just need to keep doing that.”