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Chalk Talk: Previewing Arkansas with Arkansas Fight

It's time for LSU baseball to take this show on the road, and while hoops tries to keep it's season going in Pittsburgh, baseball is headed for the unfriendly confines of Baum Stadium. I talked with Ryan Higgins of Arkansas Fight to learn what's keeping the struggling Hogs down.

PodKATT: Going into the season, many said one of Arkansas’s strength’s this year would be it’s pitching. While there certainly are some gems on the staff, the Hogs are listing a TBA for the Friday starter. Who is likely to start and has the staff as a whole live up to expectations?

Ryan Higgins:  They spread out Killian and Taccolini because they don't have a third guy that they can trust. They know both those guys can eat innings, so they let the bullpen rest as much as possible. Then, they do Saturday by committee. If Zach Jackson doesn't have to pitch on Friday out of the pen, he could start Friday. Really, outside of the three guys I mentioned, it has been an absolute s@!$ show out of the pen. I've never seen a group of pitchers struggle to throw strikes like these guys have.

PK: The Hogs are just a game over .500, with a shaky OOC resume and a heartbreaking sweep in the rain at Vandy last week. What do you think is the main cause for the rough start?

RH: It's pitching. These guys can't throw strikes. I'm not trying to be mean, or harsh, but it's true. Dave Van Horn said earlier this year that he has never been a part of something like this before. The Hogs walked 13 batters against Gonzaga a couple of weeks ago. Then, they plunked a couple of guys on top of that. It's sad because they have three really good pitchers, and then it drops off to guys who can't pitch in midweek games, let alone in the SEC.

PK: The new ball has led to a marked improvement in BA and power numbers for LSU so far this year, but not outrageously so. Have you noticed the new ball making a difference for ARK and has it changed their plate approach in any noticeable way?

RH: There is definitely more pop to the ball. Home run numbers are definitely up. Arkansas also has better hitters than they've had in a while, but we can tell ball has improved the offense some. It doesn't seem like Arkansas is playing as much "small ball"  as they use to, but I don't think that has much to do with the ball. It has to do with the pitchers giving up so many runs that they have to swing away.

PK: Looking up and down the ARK lineup, there are some familiar names who appear to have been there forever (is Joe Serrano EVER going to graduate?) Who’s providing the leadership on this team and who’s a new name LSU fans should look out for?

RH: Yeah it feels like Joe Serrano started college with me seven years ago, but I digress. Clark Eagan and Andrew Benintendi are the two constants that LSU fans probably remember from last season. Carson Shaddy is a newcomer that can really hit, but there is no where to put him defensively. They tired to let him catch early in the season and it was a small disaster. They've put him in the outfield a couple of games to get his bat in the lineup. Chad Spanberger is another newcomer that can do some damage with his bat. He is tied for third on the team with 12 RBIs.

PK: Bottom 9, Two out, down 1, 1 on. Who do you want to come to the plate for Arkansas?

RH: Andrew Benintendi, probably. He is the best hitter on the team no doubt, but there have been other guys that have been clutch. Chad Spanberger had a walk-off hit against SEMO. Clark Eagan always seems to keep innings alive in clutch situations. I'd trust the majority of the lineup to make a clutch hit these days. No longer are their automatic outs in the Arkansas lineup *cough* Jake Wise *cough*.