Hogs Get Bad News Amid Another Gem + More from Game 1 vs SJSU

Ben Bybee, Arkansas baseball, Arkansas vs San Jose State
photo credit: Craven Whitlow

FAYETTEVILLE — The embarrassment of riches that is Arkansas’ pitching staff was on full display Tuesday night.

Ben Bybee and four relievers combined to allow only two hits in the No. 1 Razorbacks’ 5-1 win over San Jose State in the first of a two-game midweek series at Baum-Walker Stadium.

One of those two hits was a solo home run and actually gave the Spartans (12-20) a brief lead, but Arkansas (28-3) immediately answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning and the pitchers took care of the rest.

“I really liked what I saw from our whole pitching staff,” Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn said. “Super job by our pitchers.”

As good of a start as it was from Bybee, it was the bullpen that stole the show Tuesday. The quartet of Christian Foutch, Gage Wood, Hunter Dietz and Stone Hewlett was nearly perfect for four innings, allowing just one base runner and striking out six of the 13 batters they faced.

Foutch was first out of the pen and the sophomore right-hander needed just 14 pitches to induce a ground out and notch a pair of strikeouts in a perfect sixth inning. He touched 99 mph with his fastball while also mixing in some sliders and a splitter or two.

He has been phenomenal this season, especially when you throw out his first outing. After giving up one earned run on three hits in 1 1/3 innings against James Madison, Foutch switched to a two-seamer because his fastball was flat.

Now it has some sink and the results have been great. He’s allowed just four hits and one walk in 8 1/3 scoreless innings over his last six appearances.


UPDATESee our latest on Game 2’s results here:


“It’s the fastball — it’s downhill and it’s sinking, and they’ve got to make their mind up real quick if they want to swing or not because it’s got a little velocity behind it,” Van Horn said. “If that slider comes on, it’s going to be real hard to hit him.”

In the seventh, Wood was even more efficient. The right-hander needed only 10 pitches in his perfect inning, building on his strong two-inning outing against Ole Miss over the weekend. He now has a 1.98 ERA in 13 2/3 innings this season.

The run of 16 consecutive Spartans retired was snapped with a leadoff walk issued by freshman Hunter Dietz in the eighth, but he bounced back with a strikeout before leaving the game with an injury. (More on that below.)

Typically a left-on-left specialist, Hewlett took over and recorded the final five outs of the game. Three of the five batters he faced were right-handed, with one of them retired via strikeout.

The Kansas transfer now has a 1.12 ERA with a whopping 17 strikeouts in eight innings. That is 19.1 strikeouts per nine innings — a higher rate than Hagen Smith (18.2).

The most incredible thing about Tuesday’s performance was that it wasn’t out of the ordinary for the Razorbacks. They’ve now allowed only five total hits over their last three midweek games. Over that span, opponents are just 5 for 73 (.068) with 29 strikeouts.

Including the Monday game against James Madison on opening weekend, Arkansas pitchers have combined for a 1.74 ERA and 0.79 WHIP in seven midweek games this year. They’ve averaged 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings with a 5.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

“It’s hard to lock in on a guy and maybe figure out a tendency or two,” Van Horn said. “But it’s hard to do that all the time because, a lot of times…somebody doesn’t have a good inning. But it seemed like when guys are getting an opportunity they’re going in there and taking advantage of their time on the mound and pitching extremely well.”

Dietz Leaves with Injury

Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, their stellar pitching performance was marred by an injury.

Pitching in the eighth inning, left-hander Hunter Dietz issued a leadoff four-pitch walk and followed it up with a strikeout, but called for the trainer with a 2-1 count against the third batter he faced.

It was just the second outing of the season for the heralded freshman, as he underwent a minor procedure on his elbow following fall ball. That caused him to miss the first month and a half of the season.

Dietz was thrown into the fire against LSU in his debut, facing Tommy White and the top of the Tigers’ order in the eighth inning of a two-run game. Van Horn said the decision to pitch him in such a high-leverage spot was made so he would be available against Ole Miss, but he was left off the 27-man roster last week.

That was the first sign that something was amiss and Tuesday’s incident confirmed it, although Van Horn didn’t give many details following the game.

“They’re going to look at it, but he got sore last time, too,” Van Horn said. “And it’s kind of in a strange area, a different area than where he had the surgery. So (we’ll) just let them look at it and figure it out.”

The good news for Arkansas is that it can better absorb such an injury this season because of just how deep its pitching staff is. However, Dietz is one of the top left-handed freshmen who made it to campus this year and was expected to play a key role in the bullpen upon his return to the mound, so it would be a tough blow if he’s out for an extended period of time.

Yet Another Starter for Arkansas Baseball

On any other team, Ben Bybee is likely a weekend starter. With Arkansas owning arguably the best rotation in the country, though, he’s been relegated to starting midweek games.

Facing an overmatched San Jose State lineup, the right-hander gave up just two hits and struck out four in five innings Tuesday. The only real blemish was a two-out solo home run by Matt Spear in the second inning, but he bounced back to retire the final 10 Spartans he faced.

“I felt like every inning I was out there, I just kind of got more comfortable, just kind of more dialed in,” Bybee said. “It felt really good to get some innings under my belt.”

Van Horn said the sophomore “pitched really well for us,” mixing his fastball, change-up and breaking ball to keep San Jose State off balance.

Bybee threw only 55 pitches in those five innings, so he likely could have thrown another couple of innings, but the Razorbacks wanted to get some other pitchers some work, plus he could potentially be available out of the bullpen this weekend at Alabama.

It was his third outing of the year after missing the first several weeks as he recovered from mono and he showed why he was widely considered the frontrunner to be Arkansas’ fourth starter during the preseason.

Across those appearances, Bybee has allowed just one run on four hits and one walk with 11 strikeouts in nine innings.

“That’s kind of what we saw in fall practice,” Van Horn said. “Obviously In the spring he got mono and that slowed him down big time. You know, his strength, he’s probably full-go now. I thought he threw the ball really well.”

Hawaiian Punch

It may sound like a broken record at this point, but Arkansas’ pair of Hawaiians played a key role in it beating San Jose State on Tuesday.

Freshman Nolan Souza delivered the go-ahead hit, smacking a two-run single to right-center in an 0-2 count in the second inning, breaking a 1-1 tie.

That was part of a 1-for-2 performance that also included three walks. Despite being arguably the worst hitter on the team this preseason, Souza now leads the Razorbacks in batting average (.362), on-base percentage (.493) and slugging percentage (.741).

Thanks to the pitching staff, that was more than enough run support. However, Wehiwa Aloy decided to tack on and extra run with a solo home run on the first pitch of the fifth inning.

Earlier in the game, he hit a single with a 110 mph exit velocity to extend his hitting streak to 14 games. All nine of his team-leading home runs have come in the last 20 games after a somewhat rough start to the season.

“He’s been a lot more patient,” Van Horn said. “He’s hitting the ball extremely hard the other way, as you saw the one he hit off my window. I mean, that was beautiful. He knew it right when he hit it and it’s hard to the ball the other way that hard and he did it.“

Up Next for Arkansas Baseball

They may have to battle some weather, but the Razorbacks are making every effort to play their second game against San Jose State on Wednesday.

First pitch has been moved up two hours to 1 p.m. CT because they believe there is a window in which they can play.

Freshman left-hander Colin Fisher (5-1, 2.25 ERA) is slated to start for Arkansas, while the Spartans have yet to announce a starting pitcher.

The game will be streamed online on SEC Network-Plus.

Arkansas vs San Jose State Highlights (Game 1)

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Postgame Interviews

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Arkansas vs San Jose State Box Score (Game 1)


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