Arkansas Takes Streak to Mississippi
The Arkansas Razorbacks have won five of its last six games and head into its series with the SEC Western Division leading Mississippi Rebels coming off a pair of mid-week victories over Northern Colorado. The Hogs are confident that they can win their third SEC series in a row and second on the road if they continue to play the same type of baseball that has them 9-6 in the month of April.
The Hogs (24-17) allowed just three runs to Northern Colorado during the week using a cadre of pitchers, while scoring 16 of their own on timely base hits. Mississippi (27-15) has some of the best pitching not just in the Southeastern Conference but in the nation and should pose a much tougher challenge to the Arkansas hitters.
On Arkansas’ side is the return of several players over the past few weeks that have strengthened the Razorbacks depth at all positions. Catcher/designated hitter Jeff Nutt came back for the Auburn series and since his return has batted over .350 and is in the midst of a 10-game hitting streak. Pitchers Mike Bolsinger and James Mahler recently made their returns to the mound and give Arkansas hard throwing arms out of the bullpen for either long or short work. Casey Coon is the most recent addition to Arkansas’ lineup after missing several weeks to an ankle injury. Coon returned to action and hit .429 over the two games with Northern Colorado and had three RBI and three runs scored.
Arkansas’ success over the weekend rests on the arms of its starting pitchers who have been brilliant over the past two weeks.
The Mississippi series can be heard on the Razorback Baseball Radio Network with Chuck Barrett handling the play-by-play duties on Friday night. KUAF personality Kyle Kellams takes the helm on Saturday and Sunday. 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 …
• Casey Coon returned the Arkansas lineup after missing several weeks to an ankle injury and batted a lofty .429 (3-7) while scoring three times and driving in three. Coon was beginning to find his stroke at the plate prior to the injury and appears to be right where he left off.
• Chase Leavitt has found a hot hand at the plate and with back-to-back-to-back multi-hit games has increased his batting average to a team high .342 from the leadoff spot. Leavitt has hit safely in the last six games that he has started and did not get an at-bat in one game during that stretch, coming in as a pinch runner and late defensive replacement.
• Jeff Nutt continues to swing a hot bat since returning from his injury. He is hitting .373 over the 15 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.
• Nutt is currently in a 10-game hitting streak dating back to Arkansas’ opener with Florida on April 11. The streak is the second longest by a Razorback this year following Tim Smalling’s 13-game streak in March.
• Catcher Ryan Cisterna put together his first three-game hitting streak in the Florida series and extended that to eight games. 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 hitting streak is active.
• Cisterna’s current hitting streak has improved his season batting average to .225, up 68 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 Rebels
On paper, Mississippi has the advantage in many of the head-to-head statistical categories, but then again on paper so did Florida and Tennessee.
The Rebels enter the weekend series with a .303 batting average and score nearly seven runs per game. That isn’t even their strongest asset which is pitching. Mississippi boasts lively arms that have a stunning team earned run average of 3.43 and are averaging nearly 9.5 strikeouts per game.
The Rebel pitching staff has three arms with earned run averages under two including starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz who is 4-1 this season in 11 appearances and owns a 1.84 ERA. Ole Miss’ other starting pitchers for the weekend, Lance Lynn and Cody Satterwhite have ERA’s of 3.79 and 4.83, respectively. Expect to see Rory McKean, Scott Bittle, Justin Cryer and Jake Morgan out of the bullpen should the starters run into any trouble.
At the plate, Arkansas needs to watch out for Fuller Smith, Logan Power and Cody Overbeck who are each hitting better than .340. The Rebels don’t steal many bases, 38 in 42 games, but have power with 44 home runs. Overbeck leads the Rebels with 10 dingers.
The All-Time Series
Looking at Arkansas’ all-time record with the Univ. of Mississippi, one would think that Arkansas has been the dominant team with a 31-23 overall mark. While that may have been true in early years, that is certainly not the case lately as the Rebels have won nine of the last 11 meetings between the two schools.
Arkansas has taken one of three in each of the last two regular-season series, but were swept in Fayetteville during the 2005 campaign, a task that it hopes won’t happen again.
A Look at the Razorbacks’ Rotation
Friday – Dallas Keuchel, LHP (3-1, 3.14 ERA) – One of few veterans on the Razorback staff, Dallas Keuchel makes his seventh start of the season against Mississippi. Keuchel has been a workhorse for the Razorbacks and made all his starts in the past month. He has looked very good since SEC play started and is coming off a no decision against Tennessee where he threw 6.2 innings and allowed three runs. Keuchel has Arkansas’ only complete game of the season when he went eight innings at LSU, allowing four runs on seven hits.
Saturday – Justin Wells, RHP (3-0, 4.66 ERA) – Junior Justin Wells is in his first year with the Razorbacks and the righty has shown considerable improvement since the fall. An Arkansas product, Wells hails from Bryant and went to Texarkana College for two seasons before transferring to UA. Since giving up five runs to LSU on March 22, Wells found his groove and gave up just five earned run over the next 18 innings. His last outing was Saturday against Tennessee where he threw nine innings and gave up four runs on eight hits.
Sunday – Cliff Springston, LHP (4-2, 3.70 ERA) – Cliff Springston, a transfer from Baylor, gets the start for the Hogs on Sunday afternoon. Springston is 4-2 on the year with a 3.70 ERA and 42 strikeouts against just 17 walks. He has held opponents to a .269 batting average over 56.0 innings. The southpaw features a low-90s fastball, a quality change up and a curveball. He pitched 6.2 innings in his last start against Tennessee, allowing three earned runs on 10 hits.
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.
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 36 starts in center field and three on the mound for Arkansas. He has also made five relief appearances out of the Hogs’ bullpen.
Eibner is fourth on the team with a .331 average at the plate (46 for 139) with five home runs and 37 RBI. He has also scored 23 runs while drawing 13 walks and has been hit by seven pitches to post a .413 on-base percentage. On the mound, Eibner is 3-1 on the season with a 5.23 ERA with 18 strikeouts to just 12 walks in 20.2 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, Ryan Cisterna and Jeff Nutt have two. Tim Smalling Logan Forsythe, Chase Leavitt, 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)
4/22 Northern Colorado Chase Leavitt 1B, RBI (4th)
4/23 Northern Colorado Casey Coon 1b 2 RBI (3rd)
* 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)