FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas’ doubleheader disappointment finally ended Tuesday.
The Razorbacks — who have struggled in doubleheaders dating back to last season — beat Mississippi Valley State 6-0 and 12-1 win in front of an announced crowd of 2,106 in Baum Stadium. The second game was shortened to seven innings.
It was Arkansas’ first doubleheader sweep since beating San Diego State on March 9, 2013. The Razorbacks were 1-7 in four doubleheaders since then, including four losses to South Alabama and California earlier this season.
“It was good to get that one in, get it over with and get a couple of wins,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said.
Arkansas (15-8) didn’t anticipate much trouble Tuesday, facing an opponent that lost 18 straight to start the season. The Delta Devils (1-22), who picked up their first win against Alcorn State last Saturday, continued to struggle against the Hogs.
Three Arkansas pitchers — including starter Colin Poche — combined to toss Arkansas’ second straight shutout in the opening game.
Poche (2-0), especially, was sharp during his season-long, five-inning stint. He allowed three hits, walked one and struck out six before turning the game over to relievers Jackson Lowery and Chris Fallwell, who kept the Delta Devils scoreless.
“He had a good fastball,” Van Horn said of Poche, who was slowed by a sore arm earlier this season. “I see his velocity, it seems like it’s getting up there a little bit to where we want to see it. … So he’s getting there. I feel like he’s getting closer.”
The three pitchers helped extend the Arkansas staff’s streak of consecutive scoreless innings to 24. It dated back to the second game of the Alabama series.
The streak stretched to 25 2/3 before ending when Kalik May’s RBI single off Arkansas starter James Teague (1-0) in the second inning of game two. It was the only run seven Arkansas pitchers allowed during the doubleheader.
The Razorbacks have surrendered two runs in the past 34 innings, continuing its strong performance since the 17-9 loss to Alabama last Friday.
“We’ve just done a really good job of getting ahead of hitters, keeping them off balance,” Poche said of the improvement. “When you do that, it’s tough on them. We’ve got a lot of talent on this staff. When you’re working ahead and you’ve got the advantage, it’s going to be tough for the other team.”
Said Spoon: “The pitching has been phenomenal.”
The Razorbacks got plenty of run support during the doubleheader as well.
Van Horn believed Arkansas started slow, but the Razorbacks finally broke through with an RBI single by K.J. Wilkerson in the second inning. Arkansas added runs in the third and fourth innings, then got three in the fifth on a two-run double by Eric Fisher and an RBI groundout by Bobby Wernes to take a 6-0 lead.
Arkansas jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning during Game 2, then finished off Mississippi Valley State by scoring three runs in the sixth and four in the seventh.
“We swung the bats real well,” Van Horn said. “We hit a lot of balls hard. We put together a couple good innings, then kind of put them away those last two innings.”
Second baseman Brian Anderson led the way, going 2 for 4 with four RBIs and two runs scored in the second game. The junior hit an inside-the-park home run in the sixth inning, driving a pitch out to the left center field wall. The ball bounced off the ball and couldn’t be collected by the Delta Devils until Anderson approached third.
Anderson was the first Razorback to hit an inside the park home run since Danny Hamblin in 2007. It was his second home run this season.
“I really didn’t know if the ball was going to get out of the park or not,” Anderson said. “I saw it ricochet off the wall and really was just looking to get to third, at least. (Third base) coach (Tony) Vitello kept waving me.”
The doubleheader ended an inning later when Arkansas outfielder Joe Serrano singled up the middle to drive in two runs to make it 12-1. The teams had agreed to a 10-run rule limit before the game.
Anderson went 4 for 9 with a home run, double and four RBIs in the doubleheader. Outfielder Tyler Spoon — who had three hits in the first game — went 4-for-7 with a double and two RBIs. Arkansas had 21 hits in the two wins.
The Razorbacks can add more tonight, when the teams play in North Little Rock’s Dickey-Stephens Park at 6:35. Arkansas is making its annual stop in Central Arkansas before its three-game series at Mississippi State.
“We need to carry it into (tonight) as well, but it’s definitely good momentum going into Mississippi State,” Spoon said. “We’re going to see some good pitching.”
Catcher Blake Baxendale left after three innings in Game 2 with an injury to his left arm. Van Horn said he’s hoping it was just a deep bruise, but the redshirt freshman underwent an imaging scan to determine the extent of the injury. Freshman Alex Gosser would be Arkansas’ backup catcher if Baxendale has to miss any extended time. … Van Horn said shortstop Brett McAfee will not make the trip to central Arkansas and may not travel to Mississippi State because of a back injury, which flared up again Monday night. Van Horn said McAfee will undergo an MRI today. He has missed 10 straight games. … Five pitches hit Arkansas batters Tuesday, raising the season total to 49. At least one Razorback has been hit by a pitch in 20 of the 23 games this season. … The Razorbacks will send RHP Alex Phillips (1-0) to the mound to face MVSU tonight. It will be Phillips’ fourth start.