FAYETTEVILLE — For the first time since joining the Arkansas baseball team, Jared Wegner was not in the lineup Wednesday afternoon.
The midseason All-American and left fielder missed the Razorbacks’ 11-4 loss to Little Rock after hurting his left thumb on a head-first slide into third base in the first inning of Tuesday’s game.
He eventually scored, but was replaced by a pinch hitter the second time he was due up in the inning. The status of Wegner — who didn’t even go through pregame warmups Wednesday — is now up in the air for Friday’s series opener against Tennessee.
Head coach Dave Van Horn said it was “50/50” whether he’d be able to play or not.
“It’s not a clean break or anything, it’s more of a hairline fracture,” Van Horn said. “It’s very painful right now, but I think if anybody could handle the pain, it would probably be him. I don’t know yet. … He’s going to have to show me he can play.”
Wegner received that diagnosis after seeing a doctor Wednesday morning. Van Horn said he’d know more about his timeline to return Thursday, but probably won’t know his availability for sure until Friday.
The good news is that it’s his left hand, which is his non-dominant and glove hand, so it could come down to pain tolerance.
“He can grip the bat,” Van Horn said. “If you hurt your top hand thumb, it’s going to affect you more than the bottom hand, I would think, the way we swing a bat. It’s more about the pain and him not thinking about that thumb, so if he shows me tomorrow that he can hit a little bit or Friday, we’ll probably go with him.”
Van Horn has praised Wegner for his toughness throughout the season — a trait that has followed him from Creighton, where he played through a broken hamate bone.
That isn’t lost on his teammates, either.
“He’s a tough guy,” first baseman Brady Slavens said. “To break your thumb and still have a chance to play is crazy. That just tells you everything you need to know about Jared.”
Losing a player of Wegner’s stature would be a massive blow to Arkansas’ lineup. He leads the team in home runs (12) and RBIs (44), plus ranks second in batting average (.351), on-base percentage (.551) and slugging percentage (.739).
If he gets hurt, the Razorbacks have a couple of options. The first would be to simply sub in Hunter Grimes, who went 0 for 6 with four walks, a sacrifice fly and one strikeout in two starts against Little Rock.
Another way Van Horn could attack it is by flipping Jace Bohrofen from right to left field, inserting Kendall Diggs in right and using someone else – such as freshman Reese Robinett – as a designated hitter.
That latter option would be a sure way to add more offense to the lineup, but Diggs – a converted corner infielder – is still a work-in-progress when it comes to playing in the outfield.
“He’s definitely gotten a lot better — just getting more reps because he’s honestly pretty new out there,” center fielder Tavian Josenberger said. “But yeah, if (Van Horn) sticks him out there, he’ll be perfectly fine.”
Arkansas Splits Midweek vs Little Rock
As for the game itself, it was Arkansas’ first midweek loss of the year.
The Razorbacks haven’t gone undefeated in such games since 2005 — a span in which they’ve reached the College World Series six times — so a midweek loss isn’t the end of the world.
It was a classic role reversal for the two teams, as Arkansas won the first matchup via run rule, 21-5, before getting blown out Tuesday.
“Baseball, what a humbling game,” Van Horn said. “You’ve got to show up, you’ve got to play defense and you’ve got to throw strikes. Yesterday, Little Rock didn’t do it and today we didn’t do it.”
On the mound, five Razorbacks combined to issue 10 free passes (nine walks, one HBP) and throw two wild pitches. It wasn’t quite as extreme as Little Rock’s 18 free passes and six wild pitches the day before, but it was close.
They also didn’t get much help from their defense, as things “snowballed” on them and bad fielding led to four unearned runs.
The first error was by first baseman Brady Slavens when he let a grounder by Skyler Trevino get by him. Trevino still got the RBI because it would have been the second out and you can’t assume an out at the plate, which seemed likely.
“That was unusual,” Van Horn said. “He’s been great all year. He looked up, because if he fields that ball, he throws to the plate and that runner’s out, by a lot. He looked up and the ball got by him. He just barely got a piece of it.”
Pitcher Austin Ledbetter made the second error when his feet got tangled up with indecisiveness on where to go with the grounder he just fielded. He fell to the ground, allowing one run to score, and made it worse by throwing the ball to the backstop, bringing in another run.
There was also an ill-advised dive by Hunter Grimes in left, turning a single into an RBI double, and the time Jayson Jones cut off a relay throw that would have led to a close play at the plate on Jaxson Anderson’s RBI single.
After going down in order to start the game, it looked like the Razorbacks would continue piling up runs against Little Rock when Jace Bohrofen and Brady Slavens homered in a span of three batters in the second inning and Jayson Jones followed with a single.
However, Arkansas managed only one more run and went 3 for 27 (.111) overall from that point forward. It was hitless with runners in scoring position until a two-out RBI double by Bohrofen in the ninth.
Bohrofen and Slavens accounted for all but two of the Razorbacks’ hits, as they each had a double to go along with their home run. Bohrofen also had a hard line out and was hit by a pitch, improving his season slash line to an incredible .422/.551/.745 in 32 games.
“He’s really done a nice job of getting into hitter counts for the most part,” Van Horn said. “He can hit when he’s behind in the count too, but he’s laid off some pitches early in the count. If you don’t swing at balls, you have a chance to be a really good hitter if you’ve got some skills, and he’s got some skills and is doing really well.”
Those guys couldn’t do everything themselves, though, and their teammates really struggled at the plate. That includes going 2 for 18 with runners on base and 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position. Arkansas advanced runners only five of 20 possible times.
That’s a stark contrast to the previous game in which it went 11 for 21 with runners on and 9 for 16 with runners in scoring position, plus advancing runners 24 of 33 total times.
Ben Bybee’s Start
Making his sixth career start Wednesday, Ben Bybee danced out of trouble for a couple innings before Little Rock finally made him pay for the runners he put on base.
The freshman right-hander worked around a leadoff walk in the first and back-to-back one-out singles in the second with the help of five strikeouts.
Pitching with a 3-0 lead in the third inning, though, the Trojans broke through against him and immediately tied it up.
After a walk by Alex Seguine, Tyler Williams and Ty Rhoades hit back-to-back singles — the latter of which was an infield RBI single. Although it was ruled a hit, Brady Slavens might have had a chance to make the play. Instead, he committed the aforementioned actual error a couple of batters later. That play brought in a run and set up the ensuing sacrifice fly by Luke Pectol.
Bybee was charged with three runs, only two of which were earned, on four hits and two walks. He also notched a career-high six strikeouts while throwing 63 pitches — a number too high for Dave Van Horn’s liking.
“His stuff was pretty good,” Van Horn said. “We scored three runs. He walks the leadoff man. You can’t do that. I think about when they scored their three runs in the top of the third and it was bing, bang, boom and they’re in the dugout. Still pitching like a freshman, in my opinion, with a good arm.”
Up Next for Arkansas Baseball
The Razorbacks jump back into SEC play with a three-game series against Tennessee this weekend at Baum-Walker Stadium. It begins Friday at 7 p.m. CT, continues Saturday at 6 p.m. and concludes Sunday at 2 p.m.
The first game will be nationally televised on the SEC Network, while the next two are streaming only on SEC Network-Plus.
Led by former Arkansas assistant Tony Vitello, the Volunteers are a consensus top-20 team despite a tough start to SEC play. They’ve lost three of their four series and are fifth in the SEC East with a 5-7 conference record.
They’ve won their last two games by identical 14-2 run-rule scores, salvaging Game 3 of their home series against Florida and beating Eastern Kentucky on Tuesday. That improves Tennessee to 23-10 overall.
Other Arkansas Baseball Tidbits
- With long balls by Jace Bohrofen and Brady Slavens, the Razorbacks have now homered in 29 consecutive games. They’ve also homered in 31 of 33 games overall.
- Bohrofen’s home run had a launch angle of 27.9 degrees and exit velocity of 108 mph. It went between the scoreboard and Hunt Center, landing 427 feet away from where it was hit.
- Slavens’ home run actually went off the Hunt Center. It was a 372-foot blast with a 99 mph exit velocity and 28.5 degree launch angle that scored two. He now has 34 career home runs, which is tied with Jake Dugger for the 10th-most in school history.
- Starting both of the midweek games to give Parker Rowland some well-deserved time off, catcher Hudson Polk threw out a potential base stealer in each of the two weekends.
- Tavian Josenberger officially went 0 for 2 with a strikeout, but he also drew three walks. He now has just one fewer walk (23) than strikeouts (24) this season.
Arkansas vs Little Rock Postgame Interviews
Arkansas vs Little Rock Box Score (Game 2)
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