FAYETTEVILLE – By himself Arkansas Razorbacks junior Preseason All-American right fielder Heston Kjerstad drove in double the runs than the entire Eastern Illinois Panthers team scored for both teams’ season opening 3-game series played Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Baum-Walker Stadium.
Kjerstad drove in six Sunday before 5,694 fans with two home runs and a double capping the 3-game sweep with Arkansas’ 12-3 victory. He went 3 for 4 with two home runs and three RBI in Friday’s 5-1 opener and 1 for 3 with an RBI single during Saturday’s 10-1 triumph.
For the series, Kjerstad totaled 10 RBI to EIU’s five total runs. He went 7 for 12 with four home runs and a double helping Coach Dave Van Horn’s Razorbacks take a 3-0 record into a Thursday through Sunday 4-game series against Gonzaga at Baum-Walker.
“I mean, that’s pretty good stuff,” Van Horn said. “A guy hits four homers and has double-digit RBIs. He two balls against wind today that got out of the park. It really wasn’t a hitter’s weekend wind-wise as far as the way the park played. Most balls were getting knocked down, but he’s just a good hitter and hits the ball all over the field.”
Kjerstad displayed how to hit home runs without really trying. For he indeed took into account this would not a gone with the wind home run weekend at Baum-Walker.
“I was actually thinking that if I got a ball it may get hung up in the wind,” Kjerstad said. “So I just went up to the plate hunting a good pitch to hit hard and luckily got enough of it to get two of them out. So happy with that.”
Over the weekend the left-handed hitter hit home runs both to left and to right and clouted Sunday’s double over center.
“ I hit a lot of balls hard spraying the ball all over the field,” Kjerstad said. “That’s always good. I was just sticking with my approach that I had through the spring and it’s still working great. It’s obviously nice to get off to a good start as a third season for me but also as a team, three good wins. The pitching staff is pitching well. Our offense is really doing well, too.”
Indeed Kjerstad was not a one-man wrecking crew. On Sunday, leadoff hitting left fielder Braydon Webb, who homered Saturday, went 3 for 6 while No. 2 hitting center fielder Christian Franklin, homering Friday, went 3 for 5.
Designated hitter Matt Goodheart followed homering Saturday going 3 for 6 Sunday. Third baseman Jacob Nesbit, 3 for 5 with two RBI Saturday, and catcher Casey Opitz, both doubled two home Sunday.
Straight out of Springdale Har-Ber, freshman right-hand Blake Adams debuted as Sunday’s starter. Adams got tagged for six hits, two in the second and four in the third, yielding a run both those two innings. He handed a 7-2 lead to winning reliever Kole Ramage starting the fourth after the Hogs scored two in the first on Goodheart’s RBI single and five in the second on Kjerstad’s 2-out 3-run home run off losing starter Foster Anshutz and Nesbit’s 2-run double off reliever Blake Malatestinic.
Ramage and reliever Caden Monke, charged with one run, each pitched two innings then Jacob Burton pitched the eighth and Elijah Trest the ninth.
In Friday’s opener but for a 2-out seventh inning unearned run, Razorbacks right-hander Connor Noland of Greenwood would have thrown a shutout for seven complete innings. He finished with a 2-hitter and career high 12 strikeouts against one walks turning it over to relievers Marshall Denton and Kevin Kopps.
Sophomore left-hander Patrick Wicklander won Saturday throwing a 3-hit shutout for five innings followed by Caleb Bolding’s three scoreless innings and freshman Peyton Pallette of Benton charged with one run in the ninth.
“We got a lot of guys a lot of good innings,” catcher Opitz said of the pitching staff he’ll help prepare for Gonzaga.
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Eastern Illinois…011 000 100 – 3 8 4
Arkansas……….250 003 20x – 12 14 1
Foster, Malatestinic (2), Wolfe (7) , Stephens (7), Stevenson (8) and Knernschield; Adams, Ramage (4) Monke (6), Burton (8) Trest (9) and Opitz, Tamez (9).
W-Ramage (1-0). L-Anshutz (0-1).
HR-Arkansas: Kjerstad, 2 (3) (4).
Eastern Illinois…000 000 001- 1 8 0
Arkansas……….302 600 00x -10 12 0
Nicholson, Chap (4), Spahman (4), Wainscott (5) and Knernschield;
Wicklander, Bolden (6), Pallette (9) and Opitz, Tollett (9).
W-Wicklander (1-0). L-Nicholson (0-1).
Eastern Illinois…000 000 100 – 1 4 2
Arkansas……….100 030 10x – 5 8 1
Klein, Cutts (6) and Knernschield; Noland, Denton (7), Kopps (9 and Opitz.
W-Noland (1-0. L-Klein (0-1).
HR-Arkansas: Franklin (1). Kjerstad, 2 (1). (2).