Critical summer awaits Kevin Kopps
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SPRINGDALE — For a moment Monday evening, it seemed as though the issues that plagued Kevin Kopps during Arkansas’ shortened 2020 season had carried into the summer.
Six of the right-hander’s first eight pitches in the Perfect Timing College League missed the strike zone as he walked the leadoff man on five pitches and fell behind 2-1 against the next better. At that point, he resorted to his bread and butter: the cutter.
“I was struggling to command my fastball a little bit,” Kopps said. “It was running a lot. I switched to a two-seam and I couldn’t really control it well up there, so I switched to a cutter and started throwing them.”
All but one of Kopps’ final nine pitches at the Tyson Complex were strikes. He ultimately got the second batter to ground into what could have been a double play ball had the catcher not thrown a pick-off attempt into right field and then had back-to-back strikeouts on six total pitches to seal a 7-2 victory.
It was an encouraging sign for a guy who struggled mightily in seven appearances for the Razorbacks before the season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Voted a team captain, many figured the fifth-year junior would compete to be the third weekend starter and - at worst - be a key long reliever out of the bullpen for Arkansas.
Instead, Kopps saw his ERA balloon to 8.18 in 11 innings and opponents hit .360 against him. Head coach Dave Van Horn publicly said his confidence in the right-hander was waning and even moved him into a midweek role just before the scheduled start of SEC play.
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