FAYETTEVILLE – After a splendid weekend, the 21st-ranked Arkansas baseball team struggled in its first mid-week contest of the season, dropping a 9-3 decision to the Kansas Jayhawks at Baum Stadium on Tuesday evening.
The Razorbacks (3-1) were led by senior Ben Tschepikow and freshman James McCann who each pounded out two hits, but it was Arkansas’ struggles on the mound that hurt the Razorbacks early and often as Kansas jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the third inning.
“You have to give credit to Kansas,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “They played very good defense and had timely hitting. They took advantage of the six walks and the two or three hit batters. They just took advantage of everything we gave them. They pitched outstanding and their bullpen did a great job. Their young, freshman starter did a nice job and threw strikes. They were able to get us out with two outs. We had chances to get back into the game a couple of times, but that’s just the way it is and you have to give them credit.”
Sophomore Brett Eibner started on the mound for the Razorbacks and breezed through the first two innings. In the third, Kansas opened with a double and moved the runner over with a fly ball to right. Eibner would walk the next batter to put runners on the corners before allowing a single to left which made it a 1-0 game. With Eibner on a strict pitch count, Van Horn came to get the righty and brought in junior Jeremy Heatley who struggled from the outset as he allowed three runs to score before being replaced by junior Christian Kowalchuk who got the Razorbacks out of the inning.
A bright spot for the Razorbacks on the mound came from an unlikely source as freshman Kendall Wehrle came one in relief in the seventh inning and pitched three innings without allowing a hit. Wehrle, a native of Papillion, Neb., plays the infield and pitches and made his first appearance as a Razorback on Tuesday night.
“We’ve got to have to play young players, inexperienced pitchers against good teams and Kansas is a very good team,” Van Horn said. “We learned a little about Wehrle today. He came in and did a nice job for us. He’s a guy that was kind of on the bubble, maybe would redshirt, we weren’t sure on that. We felt like he was going to pitch for us, but maybe not this year, but with the injuries and the way some guys didn’t get it done tonight we decided to go with him and he did a good job.”
Playing from behind, Arkansas tried to plate their first run of the game in the third when Chase Leavitt started a two-out rally with a walk. Tschepikow would double next to place runners at second and third and Kansas loaded the bases with a hit batter, but a groundout ended the threat in the third.
The Razorbacks would plate one run in the fourth, now down by five, when Andy Wilkins came around to score on a single by McCann. In that inning Arkansas would get back-to-back hits following the walk, but a double-play grounder halted the momentum.
Tschepikow would hit his career best second home run of the season in the fifth to make it a 6-2 game but even the senior co-captain’s dinger over the visitor’s bullpen couldn’t ignite the Razorback spark.
Arkansas would add another run in the sixth as McCann scored on a wild pitch after stroking his second single of the game and moving to third on a redshirt freshman Tim Carver’s first career single.
The Razorbacks continue their series with Kansas on Wednesday afternoon with a 3:05 first pitch. For more information regarding Razorback baseball or University of Arkansas athletics please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.