FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas sophomore ace closer Matt Cronin and starting senior second baseman Carson Shaddy will be on the Razorbacks’ 27-man travel roster though as of Wednesday Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said neither appeared ready to play in the weekend’s 3-game SEC West series against the LSU Tigers starting Friday in Baton Rouge, La.
Arkansas and LSU meet at 7 p.m. Friday, 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday with Saturday’s game televised by the SEC Network and Friday’s and Sunday’s game Internet video available on SEC Network +.
Cronin, with nine saves, is believed to have mononucleosis, Van Horn said before the Razorbacks practiced at Baum Stadium and did not pitch as Arkansas, 32-13 and 13-8 best in the SEC West, swept a SEC West 3-game set from Alabama last weekend at Baum.
Shaddy, .356 with 9 home runs and 29 RBI, missed the Alabama series and the Texas Tech game and final game of the 3-game SEC West series at Mississippi after hit by a pitch causing a painfully deep bruise on his right hand.
Regarding Cronin, Van Horn said, “Yeah, as of right now I mean he won’t pitch this weekend. Everything’s pretty much the same. He’ll be on the trip - but as far as I know, as of now, he won’t be cleared to pitch.”
Cronin is set to travel because he’s feeling better, Van Horn said, which holds out hope that the mononucleosis he has been tested for is not a severe case.
“We’re pretty sure it’s mono,” Van Horn said. “I mean, who am I? I’m not a doctor, but they don’t feel like it’s maybe a super bad case of it. He’s feeling a lot better, but there is protocol and we have to go by it.”
Shaddy could not properly grip a bat when Arkansas played Alabama last weekend and was replaced by regular freshman third baseman Casey Martin of Lonoke at second with sophomore Jack Kenley filling in for Martin at third.
“Shaddy is definitely going to be on the trip,” Van Horn said. “He’s getting close. There’s no broken bone. It’s just a deep bruise. He’s trying to swing the bat, but he’s probably 70 percent at the most right now. If we played tonight I wouldn’t start him.”
Right-handed relievers Barrett Loseke, named the SEC Pitcher of the Week by the SEC Office in Birmingham and National Pitcher of the Week by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association for totaling 8 1-3 scoreless innings last week in a 4 2-3 innings save over then nationally No. 4 Texas Tech plus on Saturday and Sunday notching a save and a win against Alabama, and Jake Reindl, saving Friday and Sunday wins over Alabama on behalf of starter Blaine Knight of Bryant and Loseke of Jenks, Okla., and left-hander Evan Lee of Bryant, Saturday’s winner in middle relief and Sunday’s effective setup man between Loseke and Reindl, all excelled last weekend in Cronin’s absence.
“Now that Loseke and Reindl have stepped it up, that’s taken a lot of pressure off people,” Van Horn said Wednesday. “And then Evan Lee coming in and getting us some big outs, but we still need another guy or two to get it done for us.”
Especially on the Sunday starts, final game of the SEC series after right-hander Knight of Bryant and left-hander Kacey Murphy of Rogers, start the first two games.
Arkansas junior starter Isaiah Campbell didn’t get out of the second inning during Sunday’s game that Arkansas won, 9-7 despite its eight pitchers used tying an ignominious school record by walking 15 Crimson Tide batters.
Campbell has started regularly on SEC weekends but might not this weekend.
“We’ll start the same two (Knight and Murphy) on Friday and Saturday,” Van Horn said Wednesday. “And then we’ll leave Sunday open. We’ll just do what we need to do to get there. If we need to throw Campbell out of the pen or decide to throw somebody else, we will. But we’ll go Knight for sure and Murphy on Saturday.”
The run of spectacular catches by Arkansas center fielder Dominic Fletcher, including game-savers Friday and Sunday against Alabama, prompted Van Horn Wednesday to be asked how Fletcher stacks up defensively against some of the great center fielder he’s coached including Razorbacks become Major Leaguers Craig Gentry and Brett Eibner.
“As far as just getting a read on the ball, first step, anticipation, he’s the best,” Van Horn said. “As far as athletically and running and catching it, I’ve had some guys that were faster, but nobody’s made more highlight reel catches than him. I’d have to say he’s right there with a couple of them, obviously.”