San Diego Dispatches: Hogs DealAt The Ballpark
• Breaking down strong outings from Arkansas’ Isaiah Campbell and Matt Cronin
• An appreciation of Alfonso Rivas, who busted out in a big way for Arizona
• Jake Wong shows power stuff but labors in a loss for Grand Canyon (Shotgun Spratling)
• Tora Otsuka continues to provide San Diego with a big spark (Shotgun Spratling)
• Injuries take toll on GCU, but key veterans are stepping up (Shotgun Spratling)
• Trent Shelton pitches well in defeat for Cal Poly, but defense lets Mustangs down (Shotgun Spratling)
SAN DIEGO — Sometimes, all the buzz from the fall and the preseason fades to silence once the season gets going. But sometimes, the buzz proves to be a precursor of loud noise to come.
For Arkansas, righthander Isaiah Campbell and lefty Matt Cronin were two particularly buzzworthy names heading into the 2018 season. On Saturday, they backed up the hype, showing off overpowering stuff in the Hogs’ 5-2 win against San Diego State. The emergence of those two key arms as budding stars on a pitching staff loaded with exciting power arms makes Arkansas an extremely dangerous club in 2018.
Campbell started and threw five strong innings Saturday, allowing two runs (just one earned) on five hits and a walk while striking out seven. Cronin followed with four perfect innings of work, striking out five to earn the win, as the Hogs broke a 2-2 tie with three runs in the ninth even without recording a hit in the frame.
Cronin, a physical 6-foot-2, 217-pound southpaw, was simply sublime, and he would have earned the game ball if the Hogs hadn’t given it to head coach Dave Van Horn to commemorate his 600th win at Arkansas. Cronin simply overpowered the Aztecs with his fastball, which ranged from 90-94 with exceptional riding life, resulting in numerous swings-and-misses up in the zone. He held that velocity too — his final pitch of the game was a 93 mph fastball for a strikeout of Grant Mayeaux. He threw just a couple of 74-76 curveballs to change hitters’ eye level; mostly he just pounded away with the heater, which he located to both sides of the plate. It’s one of those high-spin-rate fastballs with a little extra giddy-up as it reaches the plate that makes it even harder to hit.
“We just felt like they were having a little trouble picking up his fastball, so we just went with it, and he did a tremendous job,” Van Horn said. “We call it the invisible fastball, it kind of rises. We don’t hit him either, in our scrimmages, our guys are like, ‘We can’t hit him.’ He’s got a good breaking ball, but he doesn’t throw it a whole lot. But he’s gonna start mixing it in a little more.”