Arkansas Welcomes Home GamesAfter spending the last week on the road the Arkansas baseball team is happy to return to the friendly confines of Baum Stadium for a mid-week series with Centenary College Tuesday evening and Wednesday afternoon.The Razorbacks (14-8) are hoping to put behind them the disappointment of losing two of three to the LSU Tigers and hope a return to Fayetteville to face Centenary can get the Hogs back on the winning side.Centenary (13-4) enters the mid-week matchup riding a four-game winning streak after a weekend where it beat up on Chicago State in a pair of double headers. Prior to the Chicago State series, Centenary lost a pair to Texas A&M (9-2, 3-2) on March 11-12.The Centenary 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.Junior Casey Coon bus-ted out of what seemed to be a season-long slump in the LSU series as he went 8-14 for the weekend and was on base nine of 10 times over the first two games. Coon scored six runs and drove in five more while belting a two run home run in the first inning of the Friday contest.Also having a good weekend at the plate was Chase Leavitt who hit .364 in four games with four hits in 11 at bats with five runs scored and three RBI. Leavitt also stole three bases.Senior Travis Hill gets the nod on the mound for the Razorbacks in the series opener. Hill started the first game of his career last Wednesday against #22 Nebraska and threw three innings of two hit baseball, allowing three runs. Hill faced just 13 batters in the effort.
Leading Off …•Casey Coon was a monster at the plate in the LSU series as he hit .571 with eight hits, six runs scored and five RBI. Among his eight hits were two doubles and a home run. He also stole a base, posted a .929 slugging percentage and .533 on-base percentage.•Arkansas came back from a nine-run deficit 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 last Saturday afternoon 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.•Tim Smalling had a 14-game hitting streak stopped on Sunday afternoon when he went 0-4 at the plate. During the streak, Smalling hit .404 with 21 hits in 52 at bats. He scored 11 runs, hit eight doubles, three home runs and drove in 14.•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.•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. •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 GentsCentenary is a hitting machine with a cumulative batting average of .337 over 17 games. The Gents have scored 113 runs on 170 hits but lack the power numbers of some programs as they only have five home runs this season. Of the regular starters, seven are hitting above .325 with Jomar Tabor and Cameron Penney hitting a near Ted Williams-esque .389 and .382, respectively.The Gents are coming off a four-game sweep of Chicago State over the weekend where they combined to score 41 runs while allowing just 17. The four-game streak came on the heels of Centenary dropping two against Texas A&M in College Station. The Aggies took the series with 9-2 and 3-2 victories. Centenary enters the weekend with a 13-4 overall record.On the mound, Centenary has a team earned run average of 3.44 in 136 innings of work. The Gents seem to work their starters deep into games with few relievers having pitched more than 10 innings.The Gents are scheduled to start Joe Hagen on the mound on Tuesday. Hagen has a 0-1 record this season with a 5.19 ERA. he is making his second start of the season and has allowed 14 hits in 8.2 innings of work with six walks and five strike outs.
A Look at the Razorbacks’ RotationTuesday – Travis Hill, RHP (1-1, 7.94 ERA) – Travis Hill steps on the mound for the second start of his career on Tuesday afternoon. Hill got the nod against Nebraska on March 19 and threw three innings of solid baseball. Over the first several games of the season, Hill had accumulated three saves and continues to lead the Razorbacks in that department. He is making his 10th appearance this season, also and Arkansas high for the year, and has seven strikeouts to five walks in 11.1 innings of work.
Murphree Providing Power for HogsSenior 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 HogsThe 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.
Two Out RBIThe Razorbacks seem to be hitting well with two out and runners on base. In fact looking at the numbers, you see that Arkansas has 66 two-out RBI this fall. In the LSU series alone, Arkansas had eight two-out RBI. While the Razorbacks may not be getting every big hit that they need, the numbers certainly tell that they are getting some.
Razorback OffenseThe Razorbacks’ offense continues to hit well in 2008 with a .301 batting average, a .529-team slugging percentage and a .400 on-base percentage. UA also leads the Southeastern Conference in home runs with 37. Arkansas’ offense is also in the top half of the conference in slugging percentage (2nd), runs scored (3rd), runs batted in (4th), hits (5th), on base percentage (5th) as well as several others. Aaron Murphree’s 13 home runs is tied for the most in the SEC this year with Georgia’s Gordon Beckham and his 33 RBI are also tops in the league, matching Kentucky’s Sawyer Carroll.
Bullpen Coming to the RescueArkansas’ 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 PlayerFreshman 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.
Strike 3!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 165 batters in 22 games for an average of 7.61 per nine innings. UA also set the school record for strikeouts per nine innings last season at 8.83.
Springston Weekend Spot in RotationCliff 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 HonorsIt 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 HomeForsythe 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 ListArkansas 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.
USA RazorbacksArkansas 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.