Arkansas senior lefthander Jay Sawatski tied for the team lead with 10 wins and ranked third with a 3.20 ERA last season. He made 24 of his 31 appearances out of the bullpen as the Razorbacks won the Southeastern Conference regular-season title and advanced to Omaha.
"He was probably our best pitcher last year," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "He wanted to start, especially during conference season, but we knew his best role was getting us out of a seventh inning [jam] and taking us home."
Van Horn and pitching coach Dave Jorn have built their staff from back to front again this year. It's hard to argue with the success. Arkansas has started 9-1 to earn a No. 19 ranking with a 2.80 team ERA in 90 innings. The bullpen has produced even more impressive statistics, going 5-0, 1.65 in 49 innings with 42 strikeouts and 16 walks.
"We don't want to lose games late," Van Horn said. "We're big on going to relievers. We want our starters to give us four or five innings, and then we'll go to work with the bullpen."
Senior lefthander Trey Holloway has taken over Sawatski's role. He worked 5 1/3 scoreless innings over two appearances in a weekend sweep of Minnesota to earn wins Friday and Sunday. He doesn't possess the same 90-mph fastball and hard slider Sawatski did, but does have similar courage. Holloway locates his mid-80s fastball all over the strike zone and can throw his breaking ball for strikes, as well. He has yet to allow a run in 12 innings this year and has collected three wins and two saves.
"Trey's doing a tremendous job for us," Van Horn said. "He can give us three or four innings or just come in to get a lefty out."
Sophomore righthander Daryl Maday (1-0, 0.71) has proven valuable in relief again this year after making 11 starts last year. Sophomore lefthander James Gilbert took to the bullpen, as well. He delivered 5 2/3 scoreless innings of relief Saturday to earn his first win of the year after starting the two previous weeks.
Arkansas is keeping its starters on strict pitch counts at this point in the season — limiting them to 65 pitches in the first series of the year and stretching them out to 80 against Minnesota — so the bullpen won't be taxed quite as heavily as the season moves on. But Van Horn won't stray from his policy of calling for a reliever in any situation that dictates it as the year progresses.
"If we get somebody in trouble, we'll go get them," Van Horn said. "We go to relief so a game doesn't get away from us early. It gives us time for the offense to come back.
"I'll take that ball from them, but they know they'll get it back again. It's all about the team. We pitch that to the kids from the first day they're here and when we start recruiting them."
Around the Nation
Augusta State catcher Sam Barth set an NCAA Division II record by recording a hit in his 47th consecutive game.
Villanova senior righthander Nick Allen threw a seven-inning no-hitter in a 2-0 win against Norfolk State. He struck out six and hit a batter in the first 'Nova no-no since 1962.
Nebraska sophomore righthander Joba Chamberlain struck out 15 New Mexico batters in seven scoreless innings. He allowed two hits and no walks.
Kansas senior lefthander Mike Zagurski struck out a career-high 13 Northern Colorado batters in seven innings Friday in an 11-1 win. He allowed only one hit, a seventh-inning single.
Central Michigan freshman Josh Collmenter should remember his first college game for a while. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound righthander struck out 13 batters and didn't issue a walk over nine innings in a 5-1 win against Kentucky. He allowed four hits.
Troy senior righthander Brent Adcock struck out 13 batters in seven innings in a 6-1 win against Iowa. He has 17 K's in his last 9 1/3 innings.
Fresno State junior righthander Matt Garza struck out 12 batters in seven innings in a 12-3 win against Chicago State. He allowed an unearned run on four hits and no walks.
Pitch count watchers, steady yourselves. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi senior righthander Trey Hearne threw 150 pitches in 10 innings in the Islanders' 2-1 win against Oklahoma State in 15 innings. He allowed two hits and struck out 12 batters.
Which Tennessee pitcher has recorded the most strikeouts in a single game this year? Luke Hochevar is not the correct answer, and there's no partial credit for showing your work. No, it's freshman lefthander James Adkins. He rang up 10 strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings Sunday against George Mason, including nine in the first four innings. Adkins allowed three runs (one earned) on five hits and three walks but didn't get a decision, as the Volunteers didn't score the decisive runs in the 5-4 victory until the bottom of the eighth inning.
Speaking of strikeouts, opponents might want to just stop taking bats with them to face Alabama. The Crimson Tide staff is averaging 11.36 K's per game during its 8-3 start, including a career-high 13 Saturday from sophomore lefthander Wade LeBlanc and 12 Friday from senior lefthander Brent Carter. Eight Alabama pitchers are averaging at least a strikeout per inning, and the staff has issued 31 total walks — no more than five by anyone.
Coastal Carolina sophomore Kevin Marrie threw a five-inning no-hitter against Rider in a Sunday contest cut short by rain. He recorded seven strikeouts. The win marked the seventh in a row for the Chanticleers, who opened the season with a loss. Second baseman Michael DeJesus enjoyed a big weekend as his team won four times at the IMIChotels.com Invitational, collecting six hits, two home runs and 11 RBI.
We shilled for San Diego sophomore lefthander Nate Boman in Friday's preview, and he delivered with a one-hit, seven-inning shutout Sunday in a 3-0 win against Texas A&M. He struck out six batters and walked one. Fellow Toreros lefty Justin Blaine threw his own one-hit, seven-inning shutout against Evansville earlier in the day. The junior struck out nine batters and walked three. Evansville's Fred Jones matched Blaine through six innings, allowing only one hit of his own before the Toreros struck five times in the top of the seventh inning.
Wake Forest sophomore first baseman Brendan Enick delivered hits in his first nine official at-bats of the week, with a 3-for-3 effort Tuesday, a 4-for-4 day Friday and a 3-for-4 on Saturday. Add in a couple of walks and a hit-by-pitch, and Enick reached base in 12 straight plate appearances.
Second-team preseason All-America third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has started as predicted for Virginia, leading the Cavaliers with a .400 average, .490 on-base percentage, 17 RBI, four doubles and five steals (in five tries). He had four hits, four RBI, two doubles and two steals in a Saturday doubleheader against Fordham. The question for him entering the season was power, though, and he's still without a homer after 11 games.
One state to the north, at Maryland, Justin Maxwell, also a preseason second-teamer, is enjoying a strong start after missing 2004 with a broken bone in his forearm. The athletic junior center fielder notched his second home run and second steal of the year Saturday and was batting .471 with a .941 slugging percentage and .545 on-base percentage through five games.
Freshman second baseman Taylor Harbin leads Clemson with a .435 batting average through six games, including three doubles and a triple in the three-game sweep of UC Irvine. He has stolen three bases and has yet to commit an error in 23 chances.
Auburn must be glad to have DH Karl Amonite and second baseman Tyler Johnstone back in the lineup after the duo missed last season with injuries. Amonite leads the team with five home runs, six doubles, 21 RBI and a .548 on-base percentage, while Johnstone ranks first with a .475 average. Johnstone tied a school and SEC record with six hits in a 12-inning win against Elon, capping the performance with a game-winning RBI single. He went 11-for-17 on the week.
Texas Tech coach Larry Hayes earned victory No. 1,400 on Saturday, becoming the fifth coach in NCAA history to reach that total. Ron Polk won his 1,000th game at Mississippi State.
There were lots of crazy offensive games around the nation this weekend. Stetson tied a school record Saturday with 26 hits in a 24-3 win against Siena. Missouri set a school record with 26 hits of its own in a 25-2 thrashing of Navy. Wichita State whacked Hawaii-Hilo 19-6 and 21-1 without hitting a home run. It's not a big shocker; the Shockers have but two longballs in 10 games.
Northwestern pounded Mount St. Mary's 30-2 on 29 hits Saturday. That the Wildcats' leadoff man, freshman second baseman Jake Owens, went 6-for-8 with a hit-by-pitch isn't stunning, though the fact that he scored just one run is. Then again, how about catcher Pat McMahon (not the Florida coach) scoring a team-high six times on only one hit? (He walked four times.)
Editor's note: ESPN.com has entered a partnership with Baseball America, who will provide weekly updates, analysis and Friday notebooks on college baseball.