Memphis vs. Arkansas
Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock
The Arkansas Razorbacks will display the SEC Player of the Week to their fans in central Arkansas when the Hogs face the Memphis Tigers at 6:30 tonight at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock.
Junior left fielder Luke Bonfield was named the SEC Player of the Week on Monday by the SEC Office in Birmingham, Ala. after helping the Hogs to 4-0 week with a 12-4 nonconference victory at Missouri State at Springfield, Mo. and a 14-4, 5-4, and 11-3 3-game SEC sweep of the Georgia Bulldogs last Thursday through Saturday at Baum Stadium.
The four victories enable Coach Dave Van Horn’s Razorbacks, nationally 14th in the USA Today Coaches poll, to bring a 29-8 overall record into tonight’s game against Memphis and a best in the SEC West, 11-4 SEC record into their next 3-game SEC series Friday through Sunday against the Auburn Tigers in Auburn, Ala.
Coach Daron Schoenrock’s Memphis Tigers of the American Athletic Conference, are 21-15 and hosting the University of South Florida in an AAC series this weekend in Memphis.
Bonfield,. 329 batting average with 7 home runs and 35 RBI, went 3 for 6 with 3 RBI and his first career triple in Springfield and went 5 for 14 in the Georgia series with two home runs, one a vital 2-run home run pushing Arkansas past Georgia, 3-2 in the seventh inning of the Friday game that Arkansas won, 5-4 in 10 innings.
“It’s a good honor,” Bonfield said when asked about it Monday. “ I mean it’s special for me. It’s something that I’ll remember for a while. But I think right now it’s just about wins and losses on the season for us.”
Van Horn said Bonfield,.339 with 4 home runs and 14 RBI in 15 SEC games recovering from a slow start, and slugging first baseman Chad Spanberger,. 354 with 6 home runs and 25 RBI in SEC games, and DH/outfielder Eric Cole,. 364 in SEC games, all recovering from slow starts have been huge in Arkansas leading the SEC.
“It’s good for him,” Van Horn said of Bonfield’s Player of the Week recognition. “He has been consistent. He’s got a couple hits a game, it seems like, the last four or five games. He’s driven in some runs and had a couple really big hits for us. Obviously that home run was big in Game 2 over the weekend. We need him to stay hot like that for us to have success in this league.”
Van Horn said Bonfield getting hot batting third helped Spanberger get hot batting second.
“We’ve got Spanberger hitting in front of him and one reason I put him in the two-hole was for Luke to protect him a little bit where they’ll have to pitch to him a little bit,” Van Horn said. “They started pitching around him a little bit and they got Luke and Luke started taking control of that by getting his hits and driving in runs. It’s been big for our lineup.”
Georgia last Thursday night intentionally walked Spanberger to pitch to Bonfield.
Bonfield responded with a mammoth 3-run home run.
“It’s kind of disrespecting to pitch around him but honestly I wouldn’t pitch to him the way he’s hitting the ball,” Bonfield said of his home run after Spanberger was walked intentionally.
His Hogs, batting. 297 as a team with 52 home runs can hit, but Van Horn says, “Memphis can hit,” too.
“They score some runs,” Van Horn said. “I know that against Houston they had a 10-run game. And just talking to other coaches, they’ve said they can swing the bat. Obviously, we won’t see one of their conference starters, but they’re going to start a guy tomorrow, a big 6-6 right-hander (Jonathan Bowlin) that’s got seven decisions. So he’s pitched a lot.”
Unlike Wednesday’s game, with Van Horn planning to work a plethora of pitchers fractions of an inning to two innings tops with Auburn looming, Van Horn said he’s giving non-SEC weekend starter Barrett Loseke opportunity tonight to see if can challenge for the third game SEC start that hasn’t been getting much beyond three innings from Josh Alberius.
“We’re still trying to find a third starter that can give us some innings so you can call it an audition,” Van Horn said Monday. “He needs to go out there and do a good job and do what we thought he would do, and that’s be able to be a starter. It’s time for him to take that jump. It’d be nice if he could show us he can do it tomorrow.”