FAYETTEVILLE – Forced from its home field due to inclement weather, the University of Arkansas baseball team held its first team practice of the season Saturday afternoon inside Willard and Pat Walker Pavilion. The Razorbacks were scheduled to begin their preseason workouts Friday, Jan. 29, but the winter storm in Northwest Arkansas delayed the start."It’s like I just told them, this isn’t our first practice of the year," head coach Dave Van Horn said. "We practiced all fall together so this is really like practice 30-something. It’s good to get everyone together because it becomes so separated in late fall with the position players that are on different weight workouts and pitchers doing a different workout. This is a time to start getting things together."
The practice began with team stretching and warm-ups before each unit broke off to work on individual skill sets for the first half of the workout. Operating on the indoor turf, Arkansas spent a good deal of the two-hour session working on various defensive situations with the infield and pitchers. The focus of the defensive drills were covering bases and dealing with runners on base."(Being inside) gave us the opportunity to work on those little things-the bunt coverage, first and third defense," Van Horn said. "Instead of all of a sudden being in a game without working on those things enough because you’ve had great weather, so today was fine."The Razorbacks begin their practices having earned some attention from the preseason polls. Two of the three major preseason rankings were released this past week with Arkansas coming in at No. 16 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches’ poll and No. 17 in the Baseball America poll. The club is the 23rd-ranked team in the Collegiate Baseball poll which was released in December.With 19 letterwinners returning from last season’s College World Series team, including six starters and a talented pitching staff, the Razorbacks are in position to make another run."I think we’re in a good spot," Van Horn said. "Obviously, you’d like to have nine returning starters and five or six star pitchers back and then you’d be ranked in the top five, but we have enough back. We have enough guys back to compete for championships and we know that and the players know that. They’ve worked hard and it’s a good place to start and if we deserve to stay in the top 25, we’ll go out and earn it on the field. And if we can move up, that would be nice, too."The players also spent some time hitting at the indoor cages at Baum Stadium before heading over to Walker Pavilion. The start of the Razorbacks’ 2010 season is just under three weeks away and Arkansas will open Feb. 19-21 with a three-game home series against Ball State.