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Arkansas Baseball Hosts St. John’s This Weeken

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Arkansas Baseball Hosts St. John’s This Weeken

Series: First Meeting

Series History: This weekend marks the first-ever meeting between the two teams. St. John’s is located in Jamaica, N.Y., which is 1,330.78 miles from Fayetteville according to Mapquest.com.

Rankings: Neither team is ranked.

Head Coaches
Arkansas
Dave Van Horn (Arkansas, 1988) is in his second season as head coach of the Razorbacks. Van Horn has a career record of 623-271 overall and 38-22 at Arkansas and is in his 16th season as a head coach.

St. John’s
Ed Blankmeyer is in his ninth season as a head coach, all at St. John’s. He has a career record of 239-168-3 including a 29-27 record in 2003.

Noting the Razorbacks
Arkansas outscored Louisiana Tech 37-4 in last weekend’s three-game series. . . .Junior Clay Goodwin has the fifth-highest batting average in the SEC with a .600 mark. . . .Goodwin is seventh in on-base percentage with a .615 mark. . . .The Razorbacks hit .375 with runners in scoring position in the weekend series against Louisiana Tech, going 18-for-48 at the plate. . . .Arkansas drove in 10 two-out RBI against Tech, with senior Brett Hagedorn leading the squad with three two-out RBI. . . .The Arkansas pitching staff held the Louisiana Tech bats in check over the weekend as the Bulldogs managed a .235 batting average, including a .154 average (4-for-26) with runners in scoring position. . . .Arkansas has swept its last five straight home series against non-conference opponents dating back to last season. . . .Arkansas swept series against Eastern Illinois, Illinois-Chicago, Western Michigan and Kansas State in 2003. . . .The last time the Razorbacks lost a non-conference home series was against SEMO in 2002 when the Hogs were swept in a two-game series. . . .Arkansas’ current eight-game home stand is its longest to open a season since the Razorbacks played the first 12 games of the 1995 season in Fayetteville.

Hogs Set NCAA Record
Arkansas set an NCAA record with seven sac flies in a 22-2 victory over Louisiana Tech in the second game of the series. The previous record of six was held by Georgia Tech who accomplished the feat against Wake Forest on April 14, 1995. Scott Hode tied a team record with two sac flies, while Brady Toops, Matt Fry, Jake Dugger, Haas Pratt and Clay Goodwin had one apiece.

High Scoring Hogs
Arkansas’ 37 runs in the series against Louisiana Tech marked the highest scoring total for the Razorbacks in a three-game series since the 1998 season. That season, the Razorbacks scored 38 runs in winning two of three games against the Ole Miss Rebels on March 27-29. Arkansas won game one of that series 12-10 and game two 16-8, but lost the finale 13-10.

Newcomers Deliver
Of Arkansas’ 22 first-year players, 17 got on the playing field in the weekend series against Louisiana Tech including nine position players and eight pitchers. The position players combined to go 27-of-66 at the plate for a .409 batting average with two home runs, nine doubles and 16 RBI. The 27 hits accounted for 69 percent of Arkansas’ total production in the series, while the 16 RBI accounted for 55 percent of the Hogs’ weekend total. On the mound, the pitching staff tossed 13.0 innings allowing only 12 hits, one run (earned) with 13 strikeouts and one walk. Justin White picked up a win in relief, while Zach Butler earned his first save.

On The Five
A quick look at the Razorbacks’ 2004 schedule reveals a slight change from past years. All of the Hogs’ home games will begin either at :05 or :35 past the hour. One reason for the change is to accommodate radio network affiliates so they do not have to interrupt scheduled programming. The start times were also a personal preference of head coach Dave Van Horn.

A New Look
Baum Stadium underwent major renovations during the offseason, here is a quick look at the additions:
– A natural rye grass was planted to replace the old artificial surface. A hybrid bermuda will be planted following the 2004 season and be used as the primary surface.
– Eight luxury boxes were added along the first and third base lines on the upper level.
– Permanent coaches’ offices were built on the third base side of the stadium on the upper level.
– A state-of-the-art-scoreboard was built just beyond the right field wall. The scoreboard measures 76 feet wide by 51 feet tall and features a video board that will stream a live in-house feed, a message center, brick pillars and a traditional hand clock with ornamental bats lining the top.

Hogs Looking For Third Straight Postseason Appearance
The 2004 Razorbacks will be looking to earn their third straight trip to the SEC Tournament and NCAA Regional. The Hogs earned spots in 2002 in Norm DeBriyn’s final year as head coach and in Dave Van Horn’s first season at the helm in 2003. Should Arkansas reach both the conference and NCAA postseason in 2004, it would mark the first time since the 1988-1990 seasons the Hogs advanced to both for three consecutive years.

New Faces All Around
Look around an all you’ll see are unfamiliar faces on the Razorbacks’ roster. Arkansas features 22 first-year players including 12 true freshmen and 10 transfer players. The first-year players comprise 66 percent of the Hogs’ 2004 roster with only 11 returning players from a year ago. Not included freshman Robby Daniel who was redshirted in 2003 and did not play. The 22 first-year players include: Casey Rowlett, Danny Hamblin, Matt Fry, Trey Holloway, Kern Watts, Bubbs Merrill, Devin Day, Stephen Robison, Justin White, Blake Parker, Zach Butler, Jake Dugger, Daryl Maday, Clay Black, James Gilbert, Ryan Lennerton, Brian McLelland, Matt Stallings, Knox McCorquodale, Joe Skinner, Josh Smith and Jason Deere.

A Whole Lotta Baseball
Arkansas’ weekend trip to College Station, Texas, will stretch the depth chart to its limit. The Razorbacks are scheduled to play six games in three days at the Domino’s Pizza Aggie Baseball Classic held on the campus of Texas A&M. The Hogs will play double headers each day, with the first game slated at 11 a.m.. Arkansas will also play a pair of 3 p.m. games and one 7 p.m. game during the tournament. Arkansas will rotate between New Mexico and Texas A&M, playing each team three times. The tournament, held Feb. 27-29, is Arkansas’ first road trip of the season.

Juegue Pelota!
While the Razorbacks will not actually play in Mexico this season, they will come extremely close when they take on Texas-Pan American in Edinburg, Texas, 20 miles from U.S.-Mexican border. The Razorbacks will play a pair of games on the UTPA campus on Feb. 6-7 (Saturday & Sunday). Saturday’s game is slated for 7 p.m. with Sunday’s game scheduled for 1 p.m. The Razorbacks last played in Edinburg in 1980 when they played the first six games of the season against UTPA on Feb. 15-17. Arkansas lost four of the six games to UTPA that year.

Preseason Honors
Several Razorbacks earned preseason All-SEC honors by SEbaseball.com. Junior 3B/1B Clay Goodwin was named to the All-SEC Second Team, while junior C Brady Toops and sophomore RHP Charley Boyce were named to the All-SEC Third Team. Senior LHP Jay Sawatski and senior 1B/DH Haas Pratt earned honorable mention accolades. Freshman C/INF/OF Blake Parker was named as one of the 12 Newcomers to Watch in 2004, while junior SS Scott Hode was tabbed as one of the 12 Most Improved Players to watch this season.

Razorbacks Picked Sixth in West
The Arkansas Razorbacks will have nowhere to go but up after SEC coaches picked the Hogs to finish sixth in the SEC Western division and 11th overall in the league. Only the Kentucky Wildcats were picked to finish lower in the league. The Razorbacks were picked to finish last in the SEC in 2003, but finished eighth qualifying for the SEC Tournament and NCAA Regionals. Arkansas returns six position starters and five pitchers from 2003 and have 22 first-year players on the roster in 2004.

Van Horn Looks To Continue Postseason Streak
After taking the Razorbacks to the NCAA Regionals in 2003, Dave Van Horn-coached teams have appeared in five straight NCAA Regionals. While at Nebraska, Van Horn led the Cornhuskers to four NCAA Regional berths from 1999-2002 including trips to the College World Series in 2001 and 2002. Van Horn also guided Nebraska to four straight Big 12 Tournament appearances after failing to qualify in his first season as head coach in 1998. Van Horn’s ‘Huskers claimed three Big 12 Tournament titles (1999-2001) and one second-place finish (2002).

Far From Home
Freshman Kern Watts and sophomore Ryan Lennerton are the first players from outside the 50 states to play for the Razorbacks in the last 18 years. Watts is from Brampton, Ontario, while Lennerton is from Langley, British Columbia. Between 1979 and 1985 the Razorbacks had four foreign players on the roster. Luis Zambrana (1979-80) and Arturo Cherena (1984) were both from Puerto Rico. Steve Clements (1984-85) hailed from Vancouver, British Columbia, and Ron Weilleur (1985) called Winnipeg, Manitoba, home.




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