Razorbacks return to SEC Action at LSU
The Arkansas Razorback baseball team is in the midst of its toughest stretch of the season and continue a five-game road trip with three against the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge, La.
The Razorbacks (13-6, 1-2 SEC) are hoping that their come-from-behind win against 22nd-ranked Nebraska is what the doctor ordered to get them out of a six-game skid that saw them lose five games including two at home to a solid Georgia squad in the opening weekend of -Southeastern Conference play.
LSU (12-6, 0-3 SEC) also enters the contest looking to capitalize on a come-from-behind victory, its against Louisiana rival Tulane. LSU had lost five consecutive games until the Wednesday night victory including three at Tennessee last weekend.
The LSU 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. The Arkansas-LSU games can also be seen on Cox Sports Television on both Friday night and Sunday afternoon.
Junior third baseman Logan Forsythe continues to lead the Razorbacks both on and off the field as he increased his batting average to a Ted Williams like .417. Forsythe went 3-7 in the Nebraska series with two walks, a run, RBI and two stolen bases. Forsythe was also solid defensively, handling all six chances he had in the field.
Also looking good at the dish is sophomore Tim Smalling who increased his hitting streak to 12 games in the mid-week contests. Smalling knocked in Arkansas’ only run in the Tuesday game with a laser through the right side, then went yard on Wednesday to keep the streak going.
On the mound, the Razorbacks had to shuffle things up but found a spark when redshirt freshman Sam Murphy took the hill. Murphy recorded his longest outing as a Razorback when he went five innings of relief giving up just two runs on five hits. The outing threw his name in the hat to become a solid starter for Arkansas in coming weeks.
Probable starters for the weekend are lefthander Cliff Springston and right hander Shaun Seibert on Friday and Saturday for Arkansas. LSU has only named their Friday night probable, lefty Blake Mitchell.
Leading Off …
• Since returning from a hamstring injury, third baseman Logan Forsythe hit .444 going 12-27 to improve his cumulative batting average to .417 over 13 games. Forsythe has three doubles, a triple, a home run, two stolen bases, six runs scored and four RBI since his return.
• Sophomore Tim Smalling carries a 12-game hitting streak into the LSU series. Smalling’s last non-hit game came on March 2 against Ohio State.
• Freshman Brett Eibner remains hot this season and is second on the team with a .397 batting average. His .672 slugging percentage ranks third on the team is also third on the club in on-base percentage at .478. He is one of five Hogs on the year yet to commit an error.
• Junior Cliff Springston has emerged as a go-to pitcher for the Razorbacks this season with a 4-0 overall record in six appearances, two starts. In 24.1 innings, Springston has a 1.11 ERA and has given up just 17 hits and six walks while striking out 20.
• The Razorbacks began to emerge from its hitting slumber in the eighth inning of their March 19 game by scoring six runs. The Hogs are hitting .304 as a team and have scored 158 runs over 19 games and are averaging more than 10 hits a ball 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.
• Hogs’ head coach Dave Van Horn coached his 800th Division-I game on Saturday, March 8 (currently 808). He boasts a 535-273 record in 14 years as head coach at the Division-I level, spanning stops at Northwestern (La.) State, Nebraska and Arkansas.
• Van Horn is just one win shy of his 800th win as a head coach (799-356) over a 20-year career that included stops at Texarkana College, Central Missouri State, Northwestern (La.) State, Nebraska and Arkansas.
• The UA pitching staff fanned 16 Kansas batters on Wednesday, Feb. 27, at Baum Stadium. It was the most by an Arkansas team since Jess Todd struck out 17 by himself in eight innings against South Carolina in last season’s SEC Tournament on May 24.
• 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 LSU Tigers began the season by winning 11 of its first 12 games including nine straight and looked solid in the process. That streak ended when Stetson took the third game of its series against the Tigers and sent LSU into a bit of a tailspin that saw it lose five straight before picking up a win against Tulane on Wednesday.
Despite its recent struggles, LSU is hitting .302 as a team and has both power and speed as evidenced by its 33 doubles, 10 triples and 23 home runs.
If the Tigers have a weakness it appears to be their pitching staff as they hold a collective 4.00 earned run average. None of their top line starters have an ERA under 3.00 but their do appear to be some very effective arms in the bullpen with five pitchers under 2.70.
At the plate, LSU can hit and six regulars on the squad have a .300 batting average or better. The big bat in the order is Matt Clark who is hitting .344 with eight home runs and two doubles.
A Look at the Razorbacks’ Rotation
Friday – Cliff Springston, LHP (4-0, 1.11 ERA) – Cliff Springston, a transfer from Baylor, gets the start for the Hogson Friday night. Springston is 4-0 on the year with a 1.11 ERA and 20 strikeouts against just six walks. He has held opponents to a .195 batting average over 24.1 innings. The southpaw features a low-90s fastball, a quality changeup and a curveball. He pitched 5.2 innings in his SEC debut against Georgia, allowing just one run on five hits.
Saturday – Shaun Seibert, RHP (1-0, 6.08 ERA) – Shaun Seibert makes his fifth start for the Hogs’ since he underwent Tommy John surgery on March 22, 2007. The right-hander is only throwing between 85-90 percent, but is locating his pitches and will use his experience to his advantage. Seibert boasts a 10-4 career record with a 3.51 ERA in 153.2 innings with 144 strikeouts. He pitched five innings in his last start vs. Georgia, allowing four runs, two earned, on seven hits with four strikeouts.
Sunday – TBA – The Razorbacks have yet to determine who their Sunday afternoon starter will be. Last Sunday, Arkansas used four pitchers against Georgia with James Mahler getting the start.
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.
Most recently Logan Forsythe, Brett Eibner and Wayne Hrozek went down with injuries. Forsythe is day-to-day with a strained hamstring and Eibner returned to the lineup vs. South Dakota State on March 5.
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.
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 will miss roughly the first four weeks of the season with a broken hand. He could return as early as the LSU series.
Casey Coon and Tim Smalling are both fighting through slight shoulder injuries but are expected to play.
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.
Quick Start for Razorbacks’ Offense
The Razorbacks’ offense is off to a quick start in 2008 with a .304 batting average, a .550-team slugging percentage and a .405 on-base percentage. UA also leads the Southeastern Conference in home runs with 35.
That is a seven-point improvement in batting average over last year through 14 games and an 80-point improvement in slugging percentage. The Hogs have banged out 31 home runs in 2008, having hit just 16 at the same point last year.
Aaron Murphree’s 12 home runs is nine more than any UA player had through 14 games last year and his 28 RBI is four more that Casey Coon had 14 games into the 2007 season.
Bullpen Coming to the Rescue
Arkansas’ revamped bullpen was impressive through the first 14 games of the 2008 season. The Hogs’ relief staff allowed just 21 earned runs in 73.2 innings for a 2.56 ERA and three saves. The Razorbacks’ bullpen had a .208 opponent batting average for the season.
Seven of Arkansas’ 11 victories came out of the bullpen with Cliff Springston leading the team with two bullpen wins. Dallas Keuchel, Brett Eibner, Travis Hill and Mike Bolsinger earning one win each out of the pen.
Hill has also proven to be a reliable closer for the Razorbacks with three saves in three chances. He has allowed just seven hits in 8.1 innings out of the pen with six strikeouts and a .241 opponent batting average.
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 14 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 leading the team with a .412 average at the plate (21 for 51) with three home runs and 22 RBI. He has also scored nine runs while drawing eight walks and has been hit by two pitches to post a .500 on-base percentage. On the mound, Eibner is 2-1 on the season with an 8.18 ERA with 13 strikeouts on just six walks in 11.0 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.
After setting the school record with 565 strikeouts as a team in 2007, the 2008 pitching staff is picking up right where the 2007 team left off. The Hog hurlers have struck out 150 batters in 19 games for an average of 7.89 per nine innings. UA also set the school record for strikeouts per nine innings last season at 8.83.
Springston Weekend Spot in Rotation
Cliff Springston has cemented a spot in the Hogs’ weekend rotation after his first start of the season last weekend vs. Siena where he won his team-high third game. His work earned him the nod in the SEC opener vs. Georgia on March 14 where he threw 5.2 innings of five hit ball and allowed just one run for the win. Against Siena, Springston pitched an Arkansas’ season-high 6.1 innings while allowing just one run on five hits. He is 3-0 on the season with a 1.11 ERA in a team-high 24.1 innings.
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.
Early on in 2008 Forsythe was even better with a .345 batting average and a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage at third base.
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.
Download: 2008 Arkansas Notes – LSU.pdf