FAYETTEVILLE – Monk Kreder had three hits and James McCann drove in three runs as the No. 15 University of Arkansas baseball team downed Ball State, 9-3, Sunday afternoon at Baum Stadium. On the mound, Brett Eibner picked up the victory for the Razorbacks (2-1) in the series finale. The Razorback offense showed balance with eight players getting at least one hit, six players scoring at least once and five players collecting an RBI. The start of Sunday’s game was delayed approximately 15 minutes by rain in the Northwest Arkansas area.
"Today was a fairly well-played game," head coach Dave Van Horn said. "It moved along all right through the first four or five innings and then it slowed down a lot. I’m glad we got it in because both teams needed to play."
Jarrod McKinney and Collin Kuhn opened the game for the Arkansas offense with a pair of singles in the bottom of the first inning. After two fly outs, Zack Cox delivered the Razorbacks’ first run with a bloop single that fell in front of the Ball State center fielder. McCann continued his hot start to the 2010 season with a three-run shot to left field. Kuhn and Cox crossed the plate in front of the sophomore catcher and Arkansas led, 4-0, after one.
On a limited pitch count, Eibner made the most of his three innings of work. His first three pitches of the game missed the zone, but he made a quick recovery to strike out the side. Eibner allowed two hits with no walks and five strikeouts before being relieved by Drew Smyly to start the fourth.
The Hogs tacked on another run in the fifth, all the action coming with two outs. After a single by Andy Wilkins, Kreder doubled to deep right center which plated a run to give Arkansas a 5-0 cushion. Kreder hit a team-high .625 during the opening weekend. Against Ball State, the junior transfer had five hits, the most of any Razorback, drove in three and drew three walks.
"He has been solid for three games," Van Horn said. "We decided to split up the two lefties (Wilkins and Cox) and move him to the clean-up spot and Cox down a little bit. I think it was a more solid lineup."
Back-to-back doubles to start the top of the sixth by Ryan Chenoweth and Kolbrin Vitek produced the first run for Ball State (1-2). The Cardinals had a chance to extend the inning with a runner at third and one out, but Cox, playing at second base, made two nice plays in the field, including snagging a line drive headed for the outfield, to end the inning.
In relief duty, Smyly gave up one run and five hits in four innings. He matched Eibner’s strikeout total of five. On the day, the Razorback pitching staff-Eibner, Smyly, Jordan Pratt and Jason Fuqua-had 14 strikeouts and just one walk. The Cardinals kept their walk total down to four, but Arkansas picked up six base runners when four players-twice each for Kuhn and McCann-were plunked at the plate.
"Starting out, I thought Brett threw the ball extremely well," Van Horn said. "He was 3-0 on the first batter and came back to strike him out. That set the tone for his three innings. He looked good and was pretty smooth. I thought Smyly threw well. He got behind in the count, came back and got out of a couple of jams. He had a runner at second and third and then struck out the side. It was good to see that from a couple of veteran guys with good arms."
Arkansas put up a four spot in the seventh inning to further its lead. Kuhn started the inning by getting hit by a pitch and then advancing to second on a wild pitch by Ball State reliever Justin Warrington. Wilkins followed with a walk before Kreder poked a single through the right side of the infield to bring Kuhn home. Cox drew a walk and the bases were loaded. With one down, Wilkins scored on an infield single by Travis Sample. Tim Carver put the finishing touch on the inning with a two-run single into right field and the Hogs led, 9-1.
Ball State made a late attempt to get back into the game. The visitors scored a pair of runs in their half of the eighth and loaded the bases in the ninth but Fuqua got Vitek to strike out swinging to end the game and clinch the opening series for the Razorbacks.
The Razorbacks return to the field Feb. 26 for the first game of a weekend series with Troy. First pitch from Baum Stadium is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. Arkansas’ first seven games of the season, and 12 of the first 15, come on its home field.