FAYETTEVILLE — A gem from 6-4 right-hander Isaiah Campbell and a new pair of contact lenses for Matt Goodheart helped get the No. 10 University of Arkansas baseball team out to a strong start in SEC play Friday.
Campbell fired a two-hitter over seven innings and struck out 11, and Goodheart had a breakout game at the plate with a pair of doubles to lead the Razorbacks to a 2-0 victory over Missouri before a crowd of 4,158 at Baum-Walker Stadium.
Arkansas (15-2) improved to 10-7 in SEC openers under Coach Dave Van Horn, including 6-1 in home games. The Razorbacks posted their first conference-opening shutout since a 1-0 victory at Georgia in their first SEC game on March 21, 1992.
Missouri (11-6) had scored 30 runs in sweeping a two-game set from Arkansas State University earlier in the week.
Campbell (4-0) worked at least six innings and had at least 10 strikeouts for the third consecutive start to outduel Missouri left-hander Jacob Cantleberry (2-1).
“If you like pitcher’s duels, that was it,” Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said.
“I had the fastball working in and out,” Campbell said. “I really found my cutter later in the game, about the fourth inning, that’s when I started throwing it really well. My curveball, and then my splitter, is the best it’s been all year. I had command in the zone and out of the zone, and it helped play really well off my other pitches.”
The Razorbacks continued their run of dominant pitching with their third shutout in four games. Arkansas has outscored opponents 32-1 in the past four games.
“We know our staff’s really good, and we know what we have,” Campbell said. “We’re just going out there and competing, throwing a lot of strikes, not walking guys because that’s where we’re going to get beat when we walk guys.
“Everyone on the staff has the stuff to get out of jams. That’s what we’re doing, and we’re just throwing up a lot of zeroes right now.”
Right-hander Jacob Kostyshock came out of the Hogs’ bullpen in the eighth inning throwing heat that touched 97 mph on the scoreboard display. He walked nine-hole hitter Clayton Peterson with two outs but escaped trouble by inducing a soft liner to first baseman Trevor Ezell on a 3-2 pitch to Josh Holt.
Closer Matt Cronin struck out the side to work around a two-out walk in the ninth to post his fifth save.
“I think a lot of the younger guys are seeing some of the older guys and how they do it and really just picking up off that,” Cronin said. “I think it’s just a big confidence thing and believing in your stuff.”
Missouri Coach Steve Bieser noted it was tough for either team to score.
“We just had a tough time getting things going, but those were such quality arms they threw at us tonight,” Bieser said. “Campbell was on top of his game. He threw some big-league stuff at us tonight, starting us soft and still being able to pump 93, 94 mph at us, and we had a tough time adjusting to it.”
Goodheart told the Arkansas coaches he was having a little trouble seeing at night earlier this week, so he had his contact lenses strengthened Thursday. The improved vision paid immediate dividends.
“Just some newer contacts, maybe helped see the ball a little better,” Goodheart said.
“He squared up two or three balls, took a nice walk and really didn’t go out of the zone too much,” Van Horn said. “The way he swung the bat tonight is the way we saw him swing the bat in the fall, so hopefully he’s gaining some confidence.”
Goodheart provided a spark at designated hitter, which was a position that had been struggling with a .207 batting average. Goodheart was in the middle of all the scoring by driving in one run and scoring the other for the Razorbacks, who improved to 13-1 at Baum-Walker Stadium this season.
Neither team had a hit with a runner in scoring position, with Missouri going 0 for 4 and the Razorbacks 0 for 9.
Cantleberry nearly matched Campbell’s effectiveness. The left-hander allowed 2 earned runs on 5 hits and no walks while striking out 6 through 6 innings. He threw one pitch in the seventh, which Jacob Nesbit laced into left field for a single.
“The difference in this ballgame was that he had some jitters there in the first inning,” Bieser said. “He got a couple easy outs, then all of a sudden … he left the change-up up and they slap a couple of base hits. He walked two guys, and they got a run.”
With two outs in the first, Ezell singled up the middle and advanced to third on Dominic Fletcher’s opposite-field double to right. Casey Opitz walked on a 3-1 count, then Goodheart did the same to force in a run. Jack Kenley flied to center field on a full count to end the inning.
Arkansas scratched out another run in the fourth inning, which opened with Goodheart legging out a double to right-center field that beat the right fielder Peterson’s high throw to second base.
Kenley hit a deep fly ball to right field to move Goodheart to third base with one out. Nesbit got behind 1-2 and fouled off a pitch before lifting a fly ball to right field. Goodheart tagged up and scored as Peterson air-mailed his throw way over catcher Chad McDaniel’s head.
The Tigers appealed Goodheart’s tag up, but third-base umpire Ryan Broussard signaled him safe. Bieser asked for a review, which came back with a confirmation of the call on the field.
The Tigers got just one runner to second base against Campbell. It happened in the third inning, in which second baseman Mark Vierling led off with a single to left field. Vierling advanced to second base on a wild pitch, giving the Tigers three cracks with a runner in scoring position. Campbell rebounded to strike out Peter Zimmermann and Peterson, then retired Holt on a fly ball to center field.
Campbell gave up his second hit with two outs in the seventh, a looping single over the third baseman Nesbit’s head. Campbell’s 100th and final pitch induced a ground ball to the first baseman Ezell, who beat Tony Ortiz to the bag.
Sports on 03/16/2019