After a five-pitch first inning, Jack Neely started as strong as a pitcher could against a great offensive team like Arkansas. In the second? Not so much.
Neely allowed six earned runs in the second, four off a grand slam from Razorback left fielder Christian Franklin. Neely was charged with two more earned runs in the third before his replacement Donny Diaz allowed three earned in Texas’ 11-4 loss.
“Bottom line is you can’t pitch behind and walk guys especially against good hitting ball clubs,” Texas head coach David Pierce said after the game. “It caught up to Jack and to the team today.”
Bases on balls have bothered the Longhorns all season, but Arkansas’ first run didn’t score as a result of a walk. A Matt Goodheart RBI single opened the scoring for Arkansas, but two successive walks gave the Hogs the chance to extend an early lead.
Walks opened the door but hittable pitches busted it open. Franklin, the nine-hole hitter, stepped to the plate and sent the first pitch he saw skyward. It kept carrying and carrying until it was over Eric Kennedy’s head and the left field fence.
Whatever Franklin saw in his at bat, Heston Kjerstad saw two batters later. After taking the first pitch for a ball, Kjerstad crushed Neely’s pitch over 430 feet to give Arkansas a 6-0 lead.
Arkansas added four more in the third and one more in the fourth to extend the lead to 11 runs. Texas fought back with four in the bottom of the fourth, two thanks to a Tate Shaw double and two via a Caston Peter home run, but couldn’t manufacture any additional runs in the final five innings.
There was a bright spot on the hill in freshman Owen Meaney, who held Arkansas scoreless over his five innings of work.
“He did a great job of making some early adjustment, and that’s what we needed from him,” Pierce said of Meaney. “Go out and compete. He mixed three pitches. He’s not a big power guy, but he mixed three pitches really well.”
There was a bright spot at the plate in freshman Peter’s home run.
However, the big inning hurt Texas once again and it was set up by the pitching, specifically the base on balls.
“Whatever they have in the tank, they need to go out there with it and leave it on the field,” Pierce said of his staff. “I would rather them err to the aggressive side and make mistakes as opposed to being passive and try and place the ball. If you’ve got 94 on your arm, let it fly. If it’s not good enough, we’ll go to the next guy.”
Remedying Texas’ current problems and working with struggling players in the right way is an issue he knows he has ahead of him in the coming days. Despite at 15-8 record, there are times when the game becomes very difficult for several players all at once.
“You’ve got to be cautious,” Pierce said. “When you’re dealing with a couple of guys struggling, you don’t want to group the team because what happens is they hear some things they don’t need to hear. They need to prepare for what they’re getting ready to do.”
Pierce didn’t announce a starter for Wednesday’s game, but said he had an idea of who he wanted to hand the ball to. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.