Tigers Come to Town
The Razorbacks are happy to be home and despite losing a game on Wednesday night to the rain, Arkansas is hoping that their come from behind victory at Missouri State on Tuesday was the medicine it needed to put together a prolonged winning streak. Next on the Razorback agenda is the Auburn Tigers who are currently a game and a half in front of Arkansas and tied for the SEC Western Division lead.
Arkansas (16-11, 2-6 SEC) is playing its first three-game home series since March 14-16 and has its sights set on a big weekend. Auburn (18-11, 4-5 SEC) is coming off a mid-week loss to South Alabama after taking two of three from Tennessee last weekend.
The Razorbacks began to turn their fortunes around early in the Missouri State game, but a late-inning swoon forced Arkansas to come back from a two-run deficit. Andy Wilkins provided the game-tying hit in the top of the ninth as the Razorbacks had three two-out hits in the ninth-inning alone to put themselves in front.
Last season, Arkansas took two of three from the Auburn Tigers in Auburn, Ala., pounding its opponent on Friday night 12-1, dropping the Saturday contest in a wild 11-9 game and taking the rubber match 8-1 on Sunday. Despite the two wins in 2007 and six in the past seven games, Auburn continues to lead the all-time series between the two schools, 31-25.
For the Razorbacks to be successful against Auburn, it must continue to hit the ball well and drive in runners in scoring positions. Arkansas has struggled with leaving runners on base over the past two weeks and timely hitting could be the difference between big wins and close loses.
The Auburn 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 …
• 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.
• Logan Forsythe continues to see and hit the ball well as he leads the Razorback regulars with a .377 batting average and .500 on-base percentage.
• Sean Jones returned to the Arkansas lineup in the Vanderbilt series and went 5-10 at the plate. Jones led off both games with a hit, a double in his first at bat and a single in the second game. Jones started each game in right field.
• Since returning to the field, Jones is 3 for 3 in stolen base attempts and has been on base eight times in three games.
• Cliff Springston had his shortest outing of the season at #9 Vanderbilt, but only because of mother nature. Springston threw four innings and allowed two runs but was looking solid on the mound before the rains ended his day with a nearly five-hour delay.
• 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.
• Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn earned his 800th victory as a head coach on Saturday afternoon at LSU. The milestone win came in Van Horn’s 21st season as a head coach.
• 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.
• Murphree is featured in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd in the March 31 edition.
• 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 this 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 Tigers The Auburn Tigers can hit the ball and their pitching is nothing to scoff at this season. Auburn may enter the game with just a 4-5 SEC record, but the team is 18-11 overall and stopped a white hot Kentucky team on the road two weeks ago.
As a team the Tigers are hitting .312 which ranks them third in the Southeastern Conference and have scored 205 runs in their 27 games played, a total that is tied for fifth in the SEC.
On the mound, Auburn is fifth in the league with a 3.82 staff earned run average and have two pitchers, Evan Crawford and Grant Drayton who each have three wins.
Scheduled to throw this weekend for the Tigers are red-shirt freshman lefty Grant Drayton (3-1, 3.44 ERA) on Friday, freshman left-hander Cory Luckie (3-2, 3.05 ERA) on Saturday and freshman right-hander Bradley Hendrix (1-0, 3.82 ERA) on Sunday.
A Look at the Razorbacks’ Rotation
Friday – Cliff Springston, LHP (4-0, 2.94 ERA) – Cliff Springston, a transfer from Baylor, gets the start for the Hogs on Friday night. Springston is 4-0 on the year with a 2.94 ERA and 24 strikeouts against just 11 walks. He has held opponents to a .340 batting average over 33.2 innings. The southpaw features a low-90s fastball, a quality changeup and a curveball. He pitched 4.0 innings in his last start in Nashville, Tenn., allowing two runs on four hits before rains ended his day.
Saturday – Justin Wells, RHP (1-0, 4.56 ERA) – Junior Justin Wells is in his first year with the Razorbacks and the righty has shown considerable improvement over the past two weeks. 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 has found his groove and given up just one earned run over the past 11 innings which includes a six-inning relief performance at #9 Vanderbilt.
Sunday – Dallas Keuchel, LHP (2-1, 3.67 ERA) – One of few veterans on the Razorback staff, Dallas Keuchel makes his third start of the season and third appearance in eight days with the Sunday afternoon contest. Keuchel has looked very good since SEC play started and is coming off a four-inning, one-hit effort at Missouri State on Tuesday evening. Keuchel has Arkansas’ only complete game of the season when he went eight innings at LSU, allowing four runs on seven hits.
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.
Jones Returns to the Lineup
Senior Sean Jones returned to the Arkansas lineup after missing the first 22 games of the season to a broken left hand and provided a spark for the Razorbacks as he led off both games he played with base hits. Jones went 5-10 on the weekend and started for the Razorbacks in right field. Defensively, Jones showed no ill effects to the layoff as he tracked down several balls including one over the should grab on a line drive to the warning track.
The Razorbacks could have had some serious problems behind the plate following the Vanderbilt series, but good fortune has begun to shine on Arkansas. Ryan Cisterna, Arkansas’ starter for 26 games this season was crushed at the plate on a bang-bang play and was forced to leave the game. Thomas Hauskey filled in for the ailing Cisterna and did a good job behind the dish as he has done all season as the Hogs backup. Jeff Nutt got his first playing time on Tuesday evening at Missouri State and went 1-4 with a run scored and a RBI. Fortunately for the Razorbacks Cisterna’s injury is not as serious as once thought and Arkansas could be up to three catchers in a few days.
Murphree Providing Power for Hogs
Senior Aaron Murphree saw action in just 16 games as a junior-college transfer in 2007. But in 2008 the 6-foot, 5-inch slugger from Brock, Texas, has become a force in the Diamond Hogs’ lineup.
Murphree produced one of the most amazing weeks in Arkansas baseball history between March 5-9 with eight home runs in six games. He hit .524 (11 for 24) for the week with 15 RBI and 13 runs scored while slugging 1.667 with a .600 on-base percentage. He also stole a team-high three bases.
He had homered in a school-record six-straight games before accounting for just two doubles on March 11 at Arizona State. Murphree has 13 home runs on the season, which is just over halfway to Arkansas’ single-season home run record of 24. He was named the Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week, the Pro-Line Athletic National Hitter of the Week and SEC Player of the Week on March 10.
Murphree is hitting .364 with an SEC-best 13 home runs and 31 RBI. He has a 1.045 slugging percentage and is reaching base at a .434 clip. Murphree has also swiped a team-high four bases and scored a team-and SEC-high 22 runs. His best game came in the opener of the Siena series when he connected for three home runs, including a 490-foot shot over the 40-foot-high batters’ eye in center field at Baum Stadium.
Murphree has collected eight-multiple-hit games and nine-multiple-RBI games over the first 17 games of the Hogs’ 2008 season. Murphree has six game-winning hits early in 2008, including a walk-off two-run home run with one out in the ninth inning to beat Louisiana Tech on Feb. 29.
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.
Logan Forsythe missed several games to a hamstring injury and upon his return has hit the ball very well.
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.
Ryan Cisterna was leveled on a play at the plate at Vanderbilt and came away with his arm in a sling. No official word has been received on Cisterna’s injury, but he could be out several weeks healing.
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 just made his first return to the lineup against Vanderbilt and not a moment too soon.
The Razorbacks’ offense has struggled at times as of late, but still maintain a .289 team batting average. Hits, runs and home run production are up from this time last year and the Hogs continue to lead the Southeastern Conference in home runs hit.
Arkansas’ offense is in the top half of the SEC in slugging percentage (3rd), runs scored (5th), runs batted in (4th), on base percentage (6th) as well as several others.
Aaron Murphree’s 13 home runs is second most in the SEC this year with Georgia’s Gordon Beckham leading the way at 15 and his 34 RBI are ranked fourth.
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 17 starts in center field and two on the mound for Arkansas. He has also made two relief appearances out of the Hogs’ bullpen.
Eibner is second on the team with a .366 average at the plate (26 for 71) with three home runs and 23 RBI. He has also scored 13 runs while drawing 10 walks and has been hit by three pitches to post a .459 on-base percentage. On the mound, Eibner is 2-1 on the season with a 7.62 ERA with 14 strikeouts on just eight walks in 13.0 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 will 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 has two. Ben Tschepikow, Ryan Cisterna and Tim Smalling 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)
* 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)