5-RBI day puts freshman in the mix
ARKANSAS 16, BRYANT 6
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas Razorbacks baseball Coach Dave Van Horn said he knew infielder Jaxon Williams would contribute.
“We’ve always had plans for Jaxon Williams,” Van Horn said of Wil- liams, a freshman from Rosenberg, Texas. “It’s just a matter of when.”
When looks like now for Williams after he went 2 for 2 and drove in five runs to help the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville beat Bryant 16-6 Sunday at Baum Stadium before an announced crowd of 2,172.
Williams had a pinchhit, two-run single in the sixth inning, an RBI flyout to center in the seventh and another two-run single in the eighth.
“Jaxon’s been really good,” said Razorbacks right fielder Jake Arledge, who hit a two-run home run and went 2 for 5 with 3 runs scored. “I think he’s earned his right to get some more at-bats, but that’s not my decision.
“He’s a great hitter and a great guy. I trust him at the plate. I know he’s going to get the job done.”
Playing time is Van Horn’s decision and he said there’s “no doubt” Williams has earned more of it.
Williams, who started at second base and went 1 for 4 in the Razorbacks’ 13-7 victory over Bryant on Saturday, is batting .571 (4 for 7) with 9 RBI in 6 games.
“Guys keep getting on base and I know I have to do my job and bring them in,” Williams said. “If the opportunity is there, I’m just going to try to keep getting RBIs.”
Van Horn said Williams, 5-8, 165 pounds, has changed his approach at the plate since fall practice.
“When he first got here he was trying to hit the ball out of the park,” Van Horn said. “Sometimes you’ve just got to be who you are and that’s a guy who hits line drives through the middle.
“He was pulling off the ball all fall and hitting ground balls and striking out.”
Williams’ first swing for the Razorbacks was a threerun double against Miami (Ohio) last weekend. His three hits since then have been singles.
“I’m just not trying to do as much as I was trying to do in the fall,” Williams said. “Coach Van Horn pulled me aside and told me I was trying to be too big of a player and that my approach should be more line drives and gap to gap. So I just tried to settle that down.”
Van Horn said a key for Williams’ success has been not swinging at bad pitches.
“He’s getting ahead in the count,” Van Horn said. “They’ve had to come at him at little bit and he’s made them pay for it.”
Razorbacks catcher Grant Koch, who went 4 for 6 with 2 runs, said he’s been impressed watching Williams hit.
“Approachwise I think it’s pretty mature that a lot
of hits he has are going the opposite way, they’re going up the middle,” Koch said. “That’s what we need in those situations.”
Arkansas (6-0) rallied from a 5-1 deficit after Bryant starting pitcher Ross Weiner
walked Koch to lead off the bottom of the sixth inning and was removed from the game.
Arkansas combined to score 15 runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings on 9 hits and 5 walks with the help of 5 errors by the Bulldogs (25).
“I knew that if we got into their bullpen, we’d have a lot more success,” Arledge said. “Sure enough we did. Once [pitcher Weiner] came out, the wheels fell off the bus.”
Williams stayed in the game at second base after pinch-hitting and Carson Shaddy moved to third.
Van Horn said Williams’ versatility — he also play shortstop, third and outfield — is a plus.
“I can put Jaxon at all kinds of positions if he’s swinging the bat,” Van Horn said. “He’s giving [the other players] something to think about, which is what I like.
“I’m always thinking about him.”
Williams said the opportunity to get more playing time is exciting.
“I worked hard during the offseason for it,” he said. “If [Van Horn] calls my name to start, he knows I’m going to give 100 percent.
“Whatever he needs me to do, I’m up for it.”
Arkansas Razorbacks pitcher Barrett Loseke sends a pitch to Bryant’s James Ciliento in Sunday’s game at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks trailed 5-1 in the sixth inning but scored 15 of the game’s final 16 runs to beat the Bulldogs 16-6 and complete a three-game sweep.