Arkansas Baseball Begins Fall Practice Friday
BY ANDRES FOCIL
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Razorback baseball team will open its second fall practice under head coach Dave Van Horn Friday, Sept. 26, at the Randal Tyson Sports Complex in Springdale with practices running from 2:30 to 5:30 each afternoon.
The Razorbacks were forced to move fall practice to the Tyson Complex when the artificial turf at Baum Stadium was ripped out and replaced with a natural grass surface.
“We’re all very excited about getting a grass surface,” Van Horn said. “Fans, coaches and players have been eager to see the stadium with grass and now we are getting that chance. This is a tremendous addition to our program.”
The fall roster features 39 players, with 13 of those returning from last year’s squad that finished 35-22 overall and 14-16 in the Southeastern Conference. The 2003 Razorbacks also made their second straight appearance in the SEC Tournament and NCAA Regional.
Eleven of those 13 returning players are upperclassmen, with six juniors and five seniors, including every infield starter.
Junior catcher Brady Toops returns after hitting .304 with four home runs, 24 RBI and eight doubles last season and throwing out 41 percent of potential base stealers.
“We had Brady take the summer off from playing,” Van Horn said. “We wanted him to get stronger. He lost a lot of weight last year, especially after beginning the season sick. He added about 15 to 20 pounds over the summer and really came back in good shape.”
In addition to Toops, the Razorbacks return junior Clay Goodwin who started 47 games primarily at third base and led the team with a .332 batting average in 2003. First baseman Haas Pratt also returns for his senior campaign after hitting .310 with 10 home runs, 48 RBI and 15 doubles last season.
On the mound, sophomore Charley Boyce and senior Jay Sawatski return in 2004 after solid performances last year. Boyce went 6-5 with a 3.48 ERA and walked 18 batters in 93.0 innings pitched a year ago. Sawatski began the season coming out of the bullpen, but finished the season as one of the weekend starters.
Sawatski finished with a 3-3 record with a 3.44 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 55.0 innings of work.
“Jay and Charley have really shown good leadership,” Van Horn said. “They are our top two pitchers coming back from last season. Both of them will be counted on to solidify the work ethic and show the new guys the ropes.”
The Razorbacks feature 15 freshmen on their fall roster and seven transfer players.
“We have a lot of new faces this season,” Van Horn said. “We are going to have to accomplish a lot during fall practice. These guys are going to have to learn our system and compete every day for the chance to play during the spring. Right now, all positions are open, nobody is guaranteed anything. We want competition for each starting position.”
The Razorbacks open the 2004 season with a weekend home series against Louisiana Tech Feb. 13-15. Arkansas will also host weekend series’ against St. John’s, Illinois-Chicago, South Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and Auburn.
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