Razorbacks to Face Feisty Northern Colorado Team
The confidence in the Razorback clubhouse is soaring as Arkansas comes off its second Southeastern Conference series victory against a ranked opponent in as many weeks and get the opportunity to host a tough Northern Colorado team in a pair of mid-week contests, Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon.
Arkansas (22-17) has not had much luck in its midweek games over the last several weeks, but hopes to revers its fortunes against Northern Colorado (14-24). The difficulty in that task however is that Northern Colorado is much better than its record indicates as it has upset top-ranked Arizona State and # 20 Texas A&M.
The key to Arkansas’ weekend success has certainly been its starting pitching which did not yield more than four runs in each of its last four starts. Timely hits by the Razorback bats have also put Arkansas on a bit of a roll as the Hogs have won seven of 12 games since the calendar turned to April including four of its last six.
The Razorbacks mid-week pitching has not been at its best lately, but redshirt Freshman Sam Murphy has emerged as one young arm that goes out and competes. Murphy picked up his first career win against Alcorn State in his last start by pitching six innings and allowing just one run. The Hogs look to an even fresher arm for its Wednesday contest as Brett Eibner is handed the ball in his first appearance since April. 8 and first start since March 12.
Arkansas must also rely on its bats to win the series and catcher Ryan Cisterna and designated hitter Jeff Nutt will be key. Both are in the midst of eight-game hitting streaks and are well over .350 during that stretch. Cisterna bombed three home runs in the Tennessee weekend.
The Northern Colorado series can be heard on the Razorback Baseball Radio Network with Chuck Barrett handling the play-by-play duties. The audio can also be heard over the internet inside the RazorZone at Hogwired.com. Live stats are also available on Hogwired.com.
Leading Off …
• Jeff Nutt continues to swing a hot bat since returning from injury. He is hitting .378 over the 13 games he has played and in the Tennessee series knocked out three more hits in nine at bats with two walks. He also scored three runs and drove in three.
• Catcher Ryan Cisterna put together his first three-game hitting streak in the Florida series and extended that to eight games with hits in every game last week. Cisterna was outstanding in the Tennessee series, hitting .455 over the three games with five hits in 11 at bats, three home runs and five RBI.
• Cisterna’s current hitting streak has improved his season batting average to .225, up 68 points.
• Scott Lyons has also had a big week at the plate, He carried a three-game hitting streak through the first game of the Tennessee series and had hit safely in five of six games. Lyons tear saw him accumulate 10 hits over those six games and increase his batting average nearly 100 points.
• Arkansas’ starting pitching was impressive over the weekend against Tennessee. While none of the starting three would be credited with a win (or loss) the trio of Dallas Keuchel, Justin Wells and Cliff Springston tossed a combined 22 innings and allowed 11 runs on 27 hits.
• Stephen Richards was Arkansas’ workhorse out of the bullpen over the weekend, throwing 5.1 innings over two days. He picked up the win in Friday’s game by throwing 2.2 innings of relief for Dallas Keuchel and was saddled with the loss in the 10th inning on Sunday afternoon.
• Richards picked up a career best six strikeouts in his 2.2 innings of work against Tennessee on Friday night and even worked out of a tough jam in the final inning.
• Andy Wilkins’ two-out single in the top of the ninth inning was the key to Arkansas’ come-from behind victory at Hammons Field in Springfield, Mo.
• The combination of Travis Hill and Evan Cox combined for Arkansas’ first shut out of the season on Tuesday, March 25, against Centenary. The tandem threw nine innings of two-hit baseball and became the first pair to throw a two-hitter since the 2006 season.
• Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn was named to the College Baseball Foundation’s National All-Star Lineup on March 25 for coaching the Razorbacks to his 800th win as a head coach.
• Arkansas came back from a nine-run deficit at LSU exactly one week from giving up a nine-run lead. In the game, Arkansas allowed nine runs in the first three innings, but persevered to score 14 of its own to out-slug LSU 14-13 in 10 innings. Sophomore Tim Smalling ended the game on a solo home run in the 10th inning.
• Justin Wells was the key to Arkansas’ come-from-behind win at LSU as he pitched 7.1 innings of relief. Struggling at first, Wells allowed five runs in his first two innings of work but settled in after the fifth inning and conceded just two base runners giving the Razorbacks a chance to score six unanswered runs and win the game.
• Aaron Murphree was on a home run tear never seen at the University of Arkansas. The senior from Brock, Texas, hit 12 home runs in the first 14 games of the season, including 10 in the final eight of that stretch. He has three multiple home run games after blasting three vs. Siena on March 7.
• Murphree was named the Collegiate Baseball National Hitter of the Week on Monday, March 10 as well as the SEC Player of the Week and the Pro-Line Athletic National Hitter of the Week.
• Arkansas’ 12 runs in the seventh inning vs. Siena on Saturday, March 8, tied the school record set in the sixth inning vs. Oral Roberts on April 20, 1993.
• Logan Forsythe and Casey Coon are on the Brooks Wallace Award watch list, which goes to the top player in college baseball.
• Shaun Seibert, who injured his right elbow against Kansas last season returned to the mound for the Hogs on Saturday, Feb. 23. The junior right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery on March 22, 2007, and returned to the hill on Feb. 23, 2008, just 11 months off surgery.
• Forsythe is on the Golden Spikes Award watch list.
• Forsythe is ranked as the No. 43 pro prospect by Baseball America in their top 100 college prospects list.
• Forsythe was also selected first-team pre-season All-SEC by SEBaseball.com. Coon garnered second-team honors in the outfield. SEBaseball.com also tabbed Forsythe and Coon as the third-best 1-2 offensive punch in the SEC.
• Arkansas was picked to finish third in the SEC’s Western Division league coaches and fifth by Baseball America.
• Baseball America also tabbed Forsythe as the best defensive third baseman in the Southeastern Conference.
• Freshman Brett Eibner was the seventh-highest drafted player to come to school after being taken in the fourth round by the Houston Astros (No. 141 overall).
• Arkansas boasts seven players on the 2008 roster who have previously been drafted. Six of those players are new to the Arkansas lineup.
Scouting the Bears
Typically, one would look at a mid-week contest against Northern Colorado and might think that the Razorbacks are going to win big. That isn’t the case with this solid team from Greely, Colo. The Bears have played several of the same opponents Arkansas has this season and have a 4-14 record against those schools. While some may still not be impressed, perhaps they should take note that the four wins Northern Colorado have procured have come against Texas A&M (2), #1 Arizona St., and South Dakota State.
The Bears are coming off a tough four-game weekend where they split two two-game sets against Air Force and Utah Valley. Northern Colorado scored a ton of runs, but allowed just as many over the weekend as it pounded its opponents for more than 12 runs per game. In fact, Northern Colorado has scored at least 10 in seven of its last nine games.
Northern Colorado’s offensive numbers are similar to Arkansas. They boast a .279 team batting average and are led by Mike Raudenbush who has a .400 batting average in 16 games. Chad Murray is also one to watch for as he owns a .346 average in 36 games and is second on the team in doubles with 14.
Pitching is where Northern Colorado seems to suffer as it holds a paltry 6.72 team earned run average. The Bears have allowed 300 runs in 318.2 innings of work and have been beat up with 437 hits allowed. Opposing teams are crushing the Bears pitching staff with a .326 batting average.
The series between the two schools is not long, but it is slanted in Arkansas’ favor. The Razorbacks hold a 5-1 overall record against the Bears who played against each other for the first time during the 2005 season. Arkansas’ only loss in the series came in the second game of their 2006 series, a 4-2 defeat.
A Look at the Razorbacks’ Rotation
Tuesday – Sam Murphy, RHP (1-2, 4.50 ERA) – Sam Murphy picked up his first career win when he threw six innings of one-run baseball against Alcorn State last week. Murphy looked strong throughout the outing and ran into trouble in just the second inning. Murphy earned his spot in the rotation based on his performance at Nebraska on March 18. Murphy’s last outing was against Centenary on March 26 where he threw 5.1 innings and gave up four runs (three earned) on five hits with a walk and four strikeouts.
Wednesday – Brett Eibner, RHP (2-1, 6.11 ERA) – Brett Eibner makes his first start since February when he takes the hill against Northern Colorado. Arkansas’ starting center fielder, Eibner has the potential to be a big-game pitcher, but has yet to have the time to work on his stuff due to his everyday duties. Eibner’s last appearance came in relief against Oral Roberts where he threw two innings and allowed one unearned run.
Mississippi Game Times
There are a couple of schedules floating about so for clarification. Arkansas and Mississippi meet at 6:30 p.m. on Friday night, 4:00 p.m. on Saturday evening and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.
Forsythe Solid All-Around
Arkansas junior Logan Forsythe has been a rock for the Razorbacks at third base all season. Fighting nagging maladies throughout the year, the Memphis, Tenn., native has never complained and gone out and performed at the highest levels. He leads the Razorbacks in three offensive categories including triples (2), walks (25) and stolen bases (9), while playing superb third base. Forsythe is widely regarded as one of the best defensive third-basemen in the college game and has the ability to play other infield spots as well.
Van Horn Gets 800
Arkansas’ comeback against LSU on Saturday, March 22 was an amazing accomplishment and anyone in attendance could attest to that. What made the win even more special for the Razorbacks head man was that it was his 800th career victory as a head coach. Van Horn made the milestone win in his 21st season and for the effort was recently named to the College Baseball Foundation’s National All-Start Lineup for the week that was March 25.
Injury Bug Bites Diamond Hogs
The Diamond Hogs have been bit by the injury bug throughout the spring. Arkansas has seen numerous position players ailing and have lost one promising freshman left-handed pitcher for the season.
All told, Arkansas players have missed more than 100 games this season to injuries ranging from hamstring pulls to broken hands.
Logan Forsythe missed several games to a hamstring injury and upon his return has hit the ball very well.
Andy Wilkins tweaked an oblique muscle in the Auburn series and is day-to-day.
Wayne Hrozek suffered the most serious injury in College Station when he was hit in the left hand by Ohio State reliever Alex Wimmers. The pitch broke his hand and will have him on the bench for 6-8 weeks. Hrozek has recently had his cast removed and his status for the rest of the season will be determined by how he can recover over the next week.
Ryan Cisterna was leveled on a play at the plate at Vanderbilt and came away with his arm in a sling. Cisterna took several days off from competition, but returned to the lineup one week later when he started the Saturday game with Auburn.
True freshman left-hander Drew Smyly was lost for the season with fractured left elbow. The Little Rock Central product will have screws inserted in the coming weeks and will be ready for 2009.
Sean Jones, who was penciled in to start in center field for the Razorbacks, was hit by a pitch in the left hand in early February and made his first return to the lineup against Vanderbilt and not a moment too soon.
Eibner Proving to be Two-Way Player
Freshman Brett Eibner is proving to everyone that he is capable of being an everyday-two-way player for the Razorbacks. Eibner has made 26 starts in center field and two on the mound for Arkansas. He has also made three relief appearances out of the Hogs’ bullpen.
Eibner is third on the team with a .333 average at the plate (35 for 105) with five home runs and 29 RBI. He has also scored 18 runs while drawing 13 walks and has been hit by six pitches to post a .432 on-base percentage. On the mound, Eibner is 2-1 on the season with a 6.11 ERA with 16 strikeouts to just 11 walks in 17.2 innings. He earned the win on Feb. 24 with three-solid innings out of the bullpen vs. Wright State, allowing just one run on three hits with four strikeouts. Eibner then made his first start on the hill, working five innings against South Dakota State in the second game of a doubleheader on March 5 with six strikeouts and no walks.
Wilkins Earns SEC Freshman of the Week Honors
It didn’t take freshman Andy Wilkins long to make a name for himself in the SEC. The Broken Arrow, Okla., product garnered SEC Freshman of the Week honors following the season-opening weekend.
Wilkins hit .455 in three starts (one at first base and two at DH) against Wright State with a home run and six RBI. He also delivered two game-winning hits with a three-run home run that propelled the Hogs to victory in the opener on Friday and a two-RBI single to give UA the win on Sunday.
Wilkins is currently hitting .371 on the season with six home runs and 23 RBI in 16 games. He is hitting .370 with runners in scoring position with four doubles and 15 runs scored. He is reaching base at a .474 clip with a .742 slugging percentage.
Forsythe Finds a Home
Forsythe finished an amazing turnaround in 2007 by leading the team with a .347 batting average, nine home runs and a career-best 55 RBI. He was second on the team in slugging percentage at .556, was second on the team in on-base percentage at .431, and led the team with 18 stolen bases. He hit safely in 47 of the Hogs last 59 games and in 26-of-30 SEC games last season.
His play during the season earned him the opportunity to play for Team USA over the summer. Forsythe showed his versatility as he played all over the field and hit over .300 for Team USA.
His glove did not let anyone down either, making play after play at third base. He boasted a .933 fielding percentage at third base last season with eight errors in 119 chances, all coming on throws.
Forsythe Named to Golden Spikes Watch List
Arkansas junior third baseman Logan Forsythe was named to USA Baseball’s pre-season Golden Spikes Award Watch. The release of the watch list marks USA Baseball’s first step toward identifying the top player in college baseball.
The Golden Spikes Watch List features 75 of the nation’s top collegiate players that were nominated by baseball sports information directors across the country.
Arkansas has had a key player on the USA National Team in each of the past two summers. Nick Schmidt was one of the American’s top starting pitchers with a 3-1 record and a 1.31 ERA in 2006 and Logan Forsythe was one of the top hitters last year with a .309 average in 28 starts.
Coming through with the game-winning base hit is not an easy thing to do. Here we track the Razorback players that come through in the clutch this season. In 2008, senior Aaron Murphree leads the way with six game-winning hits, freshmen Andy Wilkins picked up his third against Centenary and Brett Eibner joined him with three with the Saturday winner against Tennessee. Ben Tschepikow and Ryan Cisterna have two. Tim Smalling Logan Forsythe, Jeff Nutt, and Andrew Darr have one each.
Date Opponent Player Result (Inning)
2/22 Wright State Andy Wilkins HR, 3 RBI (4th)
2/23 Wright State Aaron Murphree HR, 2 RBI (6th)
2/24 Wright State Andy Wilkins 1B, 2 RBI (7th)
2/27 Kansas Brett Eibner 1B, 2 RBI (6th)
2/29 vs. Louisiana Tech *Aaron Murphree HR, 2 RBI (9th)
3/2 vs. Ohio State Aaron Murphree HR, 2 RBI (5th)
3/5 South Dakota St. (1) Ben Tschepikow 1B, 2 RBI (2nd)
3/5 South Dakota St. (2) Aaron Murphree HR, 3 RBI (1st)
3/7 Siena Aaron Murphree HR, 2 RBI (1st)
3/9 Siena Aaron Murphree HR, 3 RBI (1st)
3/14 Georgia Brett Eibner HR (5th)
3/19 #22 Nebraska Ryan Cisterna HR, 2 RBI (8th)
3/21 LSU Tim Smalling HR (10th)
3/25 Centenary Andy Wilkins HR, 2 RBI (1st)
4/1 at Missouri State Ben Tschepikow SF, 1 RBI (10th)
4/5 Auburn Logan Forsythe 1B, 1 RBI (8th)
4/11 #25 Florida Jeff Nutt HR, 1 RBI (8th)
4/16 Alcorn State Andrew Darr HR, 2 RBI (2nd)
4/18 #30 Tennessee Ryan Cisterna HR, 2 RBI (7th)
4/19 #30 Tennessee Brett Eibner 1B, RBI (10th)
* indicates walk-off
Hogs Lead Country in Actual Attendance – Again
The NCAA and Southeastern Conference recognize paid attendance as their method of ranking attendance, but Arkansas keeps both an actual attendance and paid attendance. After 29 games at Baum Stadium in 2007 (not including the NCAA Regional) the Hogs led the way once again. The Razorbacks sold 233,350 tickets for an average of 8,047 per game. UA is averaging 5,700 fans per game in actual attendance with a school record 165,298 fans passing through the gates this season.
In 2006, Arkansas set school records in both tickets sold and attendance over 29 games at Baum Stadium, including the NCAA Regional. The Razorbacks sold 206,352 tickets for a 7,116 average (the average is second all time). A record 164,608 fans passed through the gates in actual attendance for an average of 5,676.
In 2005, the Hogs also set a then-school record in actual attendance with 146,902 fans showing up at Baum Stadium. That averages out to 5,247 fans per game and is believed to have led the country.
Baum Stadium is underwent its third expansion since prior to the 2003 season with the addition of 20 luxury suites, over 1,500 chair back seats and an expanded Hog Pen in 2007. Baum Stadium will now features 34 luxury suites, 8,237 chair back seats and a capacity of 10,737 with additional standing room only available.
In an informal survey by the Baton Rouge (La.) Advocate, Arkansas led all SEC schools in actual attendance in 2005 and 2006. Below is a breakdown of both paid and actual attendance at Baum Stadium over the past four seasons.
Year Tickets Sold Actual Attendance
2007 266,270 (8,069) 198,218 (6,007)
2006 206,352 (7,116) 164,608 (5,676)
2005 200,378 (7,156) 146,902 (5,247)
2004 188,753 (4,840) 146,007 (3,743)
2003 100,372 (3,585) 60,510 (2,161)