Weevils hope to continue fast start in home opener


MONTICELLO — Not even head coach John Harvey expected the Arkansas-Monticello baseball team to take the field for its home opener with a 4-0 record.

But after a stellar week spent playing in the Houston Astros Winter Invitational, that’s exactly the case as UAM opens its home slate at noon Saturday with a doubleheader against Minnesota State-Mankato.

“We had a great start in Houston,” Harvey said. “It exceeded my expectations. We played two of the top teams in the country and also two of the top teams in the region.

“To come out 4-0, I don’t want to say I’m surprised because you always go out there expecting to win. But if you’d told me, ‘You’ll be 4-0,’ I’d have said you were crazy.”

UAM opened and closed the invitational with wins against Great American Conference members Arkansas Tech (7-2) and Henderson State (6-3), respectively.

In between, the Weevils knocked off a couple of top-20 ranked teams. On Sunday, UAM mercy-ruled No. 15 St. Mary’s (Texas) 16-5 in seven innings and the next day topped No. 19 Central Missouri 4-2.

Harvey said he wasn’t surprised with the impressive hitting performances his team put up against some great pitching staffs.

“Going into the season I did feel like our offense was our strength,” he said. “There are no weaknesses in our offense. …

“I think we can do better still. Overall, I am pleased. I think we should be one of the best hitting teams in the conference, if not the country.”

Harvey wasn’t sure how his team’s pitchers would hold playing four consecutive days in Houston, but they responded by giving up just 12 runs.

“I feel like we are very deep as a pitching staff,” he said. “We don’t have that one guy who will be a top-20 round draft pick like some of the teams we faced.”

Harvey was especially pleased with how his bullpen pitched and expects the starting pitching to fall into place as the season goes on.

“We got some very good pitching out of the pen,” he said. “… I think we will get better starting pitching as the year continues.

“I told our guys that our bullpen will have to carry a lot of the load and they did a great job carrying the load this past week.”

The pitching staff will need to be at its best if the Weevils are to stay perfect this weekend.

In four polls on D2baseballnews.com, Minnesota State-Mankato, which has yet to play this season, is ranked No. 1 in two polls and No. 2 in the other two.

“I think our guys are fired up to play some good competition,” Harvey said. “… Mankato is a good opponent. They bring a lot of their arms back.

“Our guys like to play at home. If you look at our record here last year, we were very good.”

That home will look a little different to UAM supporters this season.

Over the past three years, a new surface and dugouts have been added to the Weevils Field. The most recent project includes adding bleachers with chairback seating and upgrades to the press box.

Harvey said the project is nearly completed.

“The bleachers are all set,” he said. “The press box still needs to be completed. We’re also hoping to put up a black fence around the whole facility to give it a nicer look.

“When it’s all completed it’s going to look really nice.”