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Arledge always ready to contribute for Hogs

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Photographs by J.T. Wampler

Arkansas outfielder Jake Arledge records a single during the first inning of a game against Vanderbilt on Sunday, May 14, 2017, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Dave Van Horn may demote a Razorbacks regular but seldom shies from give him another shot.

"Take Jake Arledge, please," University of Arkansas, Fayetteville baseball Coach Van Horn seemed to say late during this SEC season. A senior and the only Razorback to play all three outfield positions this season, Arledge either dropped from leadoff to eighth in the batting order or didn't play at all in the last four SEC games before last weekend's Vanderbilt series.

While hitting .294 for all 47 games he's played for the Razorbacks (37-14), Arledge hits only .232 in SEC games.

"He's had a great year, really," Van Horn said Tuesday with Arkansas, 16-10 in the SEC, gearing for the final SEC regular-season series Thursday through Saturday at Texas A&M after beating Vanderbilt 2 of 3. "But league play hasn't been very kind to him, offensively."

However, Van Horn never forgot what Arledge provides.

"He's a really good defender, he's played center, right and left, and probably he is our best baserunner," Van Horn said. "Even that time I took him out in a tough situation and pinch-hit for him, he didn't complain one bit. He cheered his teammate on and never gave me a dirty look or anything. The ultimate team player and just wants to win."

Recalling how well the Hogs played when Arledge waxed hot, Van Horn restored him to the leadoff spot against Vandy.

Arledge went 0 for 4 playing left in the Friday series opener, but Arkansas won 4-3.

On Saturday, Arledge led off playing right. He was stymied, as nearly all the Razorbacks were by Vandy's Kyle Wright. Wright threw a 2-hit shutout, striking out 11 in 7 innings.

But in the ninth, with Arkansas trailing 6-0, Arledge singled leading off against reliever Drake Fellows. He advanced on a wild pitch and an infield out to score on Luke Bonfield's groundout. Grant Koch followed with a home run.

It seems inconsequential, two ninth-inning runs in a 6-2 loss, but the Razorbacks insisted it carried into Sunday's 7-1 victory.

Certainly Arledge and Koch did. Arledge singled off losing starter Chandler Day's first pitch. Koch, in the cleanup spot, followed with a two-out, two-run home run for a lead the Hogs never relinquished.

"It was good to see him hit that first pitch," Van Horn said. "I just felt like if we were going to make a move to do something, some of these older guys have to get it done."

Arledge got it done defensively, too, with a great catch near the left field wall.

Arledge relished winning while batting leadoff, but he would have relished winning while warming the bench.

"Yeah, I like hitting leadoff, but it doesn't matter where I hit or even if I play or don't play," Arledge said. "This is a great group of guys, and I just love this game so much."

The feelings are mutual. These Razorbacks love Jake Arledge's game because he's always into their game whether playing the game or not.

Sports on 05/17/2017

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