FAYETTEVILLE - During the early 2018 baseball season Arkansas Razorbacks fans saw Barrett Loseke as the pitcher with the earned run average soaring higher than the national debt.
But coach Dave Van Horn and the Razorbacks still saw a junior 2-year letterman right-hander from Jenks, Oklahoma, dominating their fall practices and capable of dominating big-time opponents.
On Monday, officials from the SEC Office in Birmingham, Alabama, joined the hitters from Texas Tech and Alabama recognizing that pitcher that the Razorbacks recognized last fall. They named Loseke the SEC Pitcher of the Week.
Loseke, last Tuesday at Baum Stadium, recorded his season’s first save on behalf of middle reliever Evan Lee by throwing four and two-thirds hitless innings with 10 strikeouts beating nationally No. 4 Texas Tech, 5-1.
During Arkansas’ 7-3, 7-4, 9-7 three-game SEC series sweep over the Alabama Crimson Tide at Baum, Loseke saved one for Lee again Saturday night and won Sunday with Friday night savior Jake Reindl logging another save as Arkansas rallied from down 7-4 to win 9-7.
Loseke threw a scoreless one and one-thirds innings saving Saturday’s success for Lee. Sunday Loseke stopped the bleeding with two and two-thirds scoreless innings with Arkansas taking the lead on his watch before lefty Lee and righty Reindl finished the job.
The Razorbacks needed their impromptu bullpen by committee more than ever. Ace lefty closer Matt Cronin, nine saves already, is ill and not on the active roster while being tested for possible mononucleosis.
“They were huge,” Van Horn said after Sunday cinched the sweep. “We found out Friday that Matt was sick and I’m just proud of those guys for taking the bull by the horns, man. They didn’t look in the dugout and want anybody else to do it. They did it themselves.”
All three were great but Loseke the greatest.
“This week without him …,” Van Horn said. “He was great on Tuesday night and then obviously this weekend.”
Just like they knew he could be.
“We saw this guy that you are seeing in the past week in the fall,” Van Horn said. “We thought this is going to be his year and then early in the year it went away.”
Junior right-hander Reindl, last year’s closer and himself recently recovering from a struggling early season, said all had seen too much Loseke potential ever to lose faith.
“You all haven’t seen, it but this is the Barrett we’ve known from the fall and early spring scrimmages for the last three years,” Reindl said. “This is not something new he’s just doing. He didn’t do anything crazy or magical. He’s just figuring it out. It’s just who he is and I’m really excited to have him.”
Loseke said it’s taken awhile to regroup but that Cronin, Reindl and successful starters Blaine Knight and Kacey Murphy have been inspirational beacons.
“It’s a long process, physically and mentally,” Loseke said. “And as the team builds confidence I think sometimes you can build confidence off other players on the team. Seeing Jake have success and seeing Matt have success in late innings out of the bullpen - I just tried to emulate them. I tried to emulate the success of Blaine and Kacey and other guys. We all had success in the fall. So I know I could do it. Just figuring it out.”
Did he ever lose confidence in himself?
“I wouldn’t really say I lost confidence,” Loseke said. “I just think sometimes things don’t go your way and it was more things not going my way. I finally got settled in and we’ve been winning games.”
Winning, (13-8 first in the SEC West and 32-13 overall) he said, as a team in all phases.
That includes the Loseke, Reindl and Lee bullpen even with ace Cronin not in the deck.
“Obviously we have a ton of confidence in them,” Arkansas junior center fielder Dominic Fletcher said. “We know these guys can pound strikes and let our defense work and close the ballgame out.”