5-RBI day puts fresh­man in the mix

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - BOB HOLT

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.”

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/J.T. WAMPLER

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.

Williams

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