Razorback report: Weather could change plans for 4-game series

FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas officials are monitoring winter weather in the forecast later this week, which could alter the schedule for the seventh-ranked Razorbacks’ baseball series against Illinois-Chicago.

No schedule changes had been made Monday when Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn spoke to Swatters Club at Mermaids restaurant, but both Van Horn and Kevin Trainor – the Razorbacks’ baseball administrator – indicated changes were possible.

Arkansas and UIC are scheduled to play once each day Thursday through Sunday. According to the National Weather Service, there is a 60% chance for snow, freezing rain and sleet in Fayetteville on Friday with a high near 34 degrees.

Any accumulation Friday could also affect whether the teams are able to play Saturday when the weather is forecast to be sunny with a high near 40 degrees.

Thursday’s forecast is sunny with a high near 58 and Sunday’s forecast is sunny with a high near 59. Before deciding on a schedule change, Van Horn said the teams will wait to see if the forecast stays the same.

“We’re going to find a way to play them some games,” said Van Horn, who added that UIC has confirmed it will make the trip to Fayetteville. Van Horn said the Flames would likely work out inside the Razorbacks’ Fowler Center on days no games are played.

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If a schedule change is needed, Van Horn indicated a possibility is for the teams to play a doubleheader Thursday, take two days off and play one game Sunday. Multiple factors, including a travel curfew for UIC, eliminate the possibility for two games Sunday.

“We’re not going to play a doubleheader on Sunday,” Van Horn said. “We have two games middle of (next) week and (both teams have their conference openers the next week) and that would be too much. They feel the same way. We could play four or we could only play three. ”

Injury update

Van Horn said right-handed pitcher Issac Bracken might miss up to two weeks with a groin injury.

Bracken has pitched twice in relief this season against Stanford and Southeastern Louisiana. In 2 innings Bracken has not allowed a hit, but has allowed 1 run and 2 walks with 2 strikeouts.

Van Horn said outfielder Braydon Webb is also continuing to deal with a quadriceps injury that has lingered since the fall. Webb has continued to play, primarily as a late-game defensive replacement.

“How can a guy be a defensive replacement? He’s that good an outfielder even when he’s going 80%, ”Van Horn said. “He might have to battle that thing all spring.”

A combination of his plate struggles and the injury have kept Webb out of the starting lineup for most games, Van Horn said.

“At the beginning of the season (there was) the injury and (Zack) Gregory was playing really well,” Van Horn said. “Then he kind of tweaked it again.”

Webb is 0 for 14, has walked 5 times and has been hit by 1 pitch.

“He’s fouling pitches off,” Van Horn said. “You’re lucky if you get one good pitch an at-bat to hit, and when you get it you need to square it up. That’s been the difference. He’s got power and he can hit the ball out from foul pole to foul pole. He’s got as much opposite-field power as (Cayden) Wallace. He does it all the time in batting practice… .We need him to take it to the game and be healthy. ”

Tygart closing

Van Horn said Monday he is pleased with his pitching staff overall, but said roles still need to be identified late in games.

Freshman right hander Brady Tygart closed the Razorbacks’ 4-2 victory over Southeastern Louisiana in the first game of a doubleheader last Saturday, and Van Horn said he would continue to be evaluated as a closer.

Tygart faced the minimum while throwing mostly fastballs that were clocked 95-96 mph in his most recent outing. Van Horn said Tygart can also throw a curveball, but did not against the Lions.

“If he could have spun a couple of those breaking balls in there he would have had them off balanced a little bit,” Van Horn said.

Tygart’s collegiate debut three days earlier impressed Van Horn. Tygart did not allow a run in the seventh inning of a game against Nebraska-Omaha despite the fact the Mavericks’ first two hitters singled against him.

“He did not get rattled,” Van Horn said. “His first two college pitches he’s got runners at first and third with nobody out, and he got out of it. That was really good to see. ”

Van Horn said redshirt freshman left hander Nick Griffin could also be used as a closer. The Razorbacks hoped to throw Griffin in the doubleheader final against Southeastern Louisiana, but he did not make it into the game before Arkansas won via run rule in eight innings.

“Nick Griffin…’s stuff is really good,” Van Horn said. “It was really good for an inning and then he lost his command in the ninth down (at the Round Rock Classic) in Texas.”

Gabe Starks, a right-handed sophomore, pitched the ninth inning of the Razorbacks’ first victory over Illinois State last month, but was brought in earlier – in the eighth inning – when he made his second appearance of the season last week against Nebraska- Omaha.

“He’s got a great arm and we’ve got to get him going,” Van Horn said. “You do not want to call a guy a raw player, but he still needs to take one more step because his stuff is good.”

Double plays

Arkansas has turned 12 double plays through 10 games. Its average of 1.2 ranks sixth nationally and first in the SEC.

Shortstop Jalen Battles has been responsible for starting four double plays, while third baseman Cayden Wallace and second baseman Robert Moore have started three double plays apiece. Starks, the pitcher, also started a double play against Nebraska-Omaha.

“There are different ways to turn a double play, obviously, but we do a great job of it,” Van Horn said.

About UIC

The UIC Flames will come to Fayetteville with a 4-5 record, but with a series win over a Power 5 program.

UIC won two of three games at California late last month. The Flames defeated the Bears 4-2 and 6-1, and lost the second game of the series 12-2.

UIC opened the season with two losses in three games at New Mexico State. The Flames lost at Ohio in their first midweek game last week, and UIC split a pair of games at Evansville last weekend.

The Flames are scheduled to play 13 games away from their home, Curtis Granderson Stadium, to open the season. The stadium is named for the three-time MLB All-Star outfielder who donated $ 5 million toward the stadium that opened in 2014.

Horizon League coaches predicted the Flames to finish second to Wright State in league play this year. UIC is coached by Sean McDermott, a long-time assistant at the program who was promoted when 23-year-old coach Mike Dee retired at the end of last season.

KC tickets on sale

Tickets went on sale Monday for the Razorbacks’ March 23 game against Nebraska-Omaha at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.

All tickets cost $ 15 and parking will be free. Tickets can be purchased through the Kansas City Royals’ website and via the MLB Ballpark app.

The first pitch is scheduled for 3 pm and the game will be streamed on YurView.com. Arkansas defeated Nebraska-Omaha 15-3 last week in Fayetteville.

The March 23 game will be the Razorbacks’ second at Kauffman Stadium, where Arkansas defeated Kansas State 6-5 in 10 innings in 2017.

It will be a homecoming for many on the Razorbacks’ roster that includes six players from the greater Kansas City area. Van Horn and Arkansas volunteer assistant coach Bobby Wernes also grew up in the Kansas City suburbs.

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