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Diamond Hogs Open Season at Louisiana Tech

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Diamond Hogs Open Season at Louisiana Tech

Arkansas Razorbacks (0-0)

vs.

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (0-0)

J.C. Love Field • Ruston, La.

Radio: Razorback Baseball Radio Network

Live Stats: Hogwired.com • Saturday: Cox Sports

Series Outlook

Game 1: #7 Arkansas at Louisiana Tech

Friday, Feb. 2, 6 p.m. – J.C. Love Field

Probable Starting Pitchers

UA: 33 Nick Schmidt, LHP (9-3, 3.01 ERA)

LT: 47 Luke Burnett, RHP (4-6, 4.23 ERA)

Game 2: #7 Arkansas at Louisiana Tech

Saturday, Feb. 3, 3 p.m. – J.C. Love Field

Probable Starting Pitchers

UA: 34 Shaun Seibert, RHP (4-0, 2.79 ERA)

LT: 39 Jericho Jones, RHP (5-4, 6.43 ERA)

Game 3: #7 Arkansas at Louisiana Tech

Sunday, Feb. 4, 1 p.m. – J.C. Love Field

Probable Starting Pitchers

UA: 42 Duke Welker, RHP (JC Transfer)

LT: 34 Dylan Moseley, RHP (3-1, 4.32 ERA)

Diamond Hogs Open 2007 Season at Louisiana Tech

The Arkansas baseball team opens its 2007 season on Friday, Feb. 2, on the road against Louisiana Tech at J.C. Love Field. The three-game series begins at 6 p.m. on Feb. 2 and continues on Saturday, Feb. 3, at 3 p.m. and concludes at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 4.

All three games can be heard on the Razorback Baseball Radio Network with Chuck Barrett handling the play-by-play duties. Saturday’s game will be televised on Cox Sports (channel 119 in NW Arkansas) with Lynn Rollins and Ron Swoboda. UA leads the all-time series with Louisiana Tech 17-2 and 9-1 under Dave Van Horn.

Van Horn begins his fifth year at the helm of the Razorbacks’ program. His club is a consensus top-10 pick in the preseason polls, including a No. 4 ranking in Collegiate Baseball and a No. 7 ranking in Baseball America.

Louisiana Tech is led by fifth-year head coach Wade Simoneaux. The Bulldogs are coming off of a strong season in 2006 and picked to finish third in the Western Athletic Conference in 2007 by league coaches and second by Baseball America.

The Bulldogs boast RHP/OF Jericho Jones who was a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American last season and WAC Freshman of the Year. He set the Louisiana Tech freshman record for home runs with 16. He is also considered the top prospect in the WAC by Baseball America. Luke Burnett was chosen as the preseason WAC Pitcher of the Year by Baseball America. Pitchers Ryan Rupert and Brandon Hudson were also selected to the preseason all-conference team.

The Hogs return a wealth of talent, including first-team All-American left-handed pitcher Nick Schmidt, ninth-round pick of the Oakland Athletics 1B/3B Danny Hamblin and the Cape Cod League’s Co-Pitcher of the Year RHP Shaun Seibert.

Schmidt and Seibert will anchor the Razorbacks’ weekend rotation. Schmidt begins his third year as the Friday night starter, while Seibert moves into the No. 2 spot in the rotation on Saturday. Right-handed junior-college transfer Duke Welker will get the start in the series finale on Sunday. Fellow junior college right-hander Jess Todd will headline the Hogs’ bullpen.

Leading off …

• Arkansas begins its 85th year of collegiate baseball this weekend at Louisiana Tech. The Hogs boast 1,711 wins and a .605 winning percentage. It marks the beginning of Dave Van Horn’s fifth season as the Razorbacks’ skipper. He is 158-89 at Arkansas and 478-246 as a division-I head coach.

• LHP Nick Schmidt is a preseason first-team All-American by Louisville Slugger Collegiate Baseball, NCBWA, Rivals.com and the College Baseball Foundation. He was a second-team choice by Baseball America.

• Schmidt’s 145 strikeouts in 2006 rank as the second most in school history, while his 234 career strikeouts rank fourth in school history. He is 66 strikeouts shy of Matt Carnes (1995-97) school’s record of 301.

• Schmidt and junior-college transfer Jess Todd are on the preseason Roger Clemens Award watch list. The Roger Clemens Award goes to the top pitcher in college baseball.

• Schmidt and Danny Hamblin are also on the Brooks Wallace Award watch list, which goes to the top player in college baseball.

• Schmidt is ranked as the No. 13 pro prospect by Baseball America in their top 100 college prospects list. Duke Welker is ranked No. 70 on that list while Jess Todd comes in at No. 73.

• Todd and Welker rank as the No. 3 and No. 5 transfers in college baseball this season by Baseball America.

• Arkansas was picked to win the SEC Western Division by both the league coaches and Baseball America.

• The Razorbacks are a consensus preseason top-10 selection with their highest ranking from Collegiate Baseball at No. 4, which was the highest in school history.

• The Diamond Hogs posted a 3.11-team GPA during the 2006 fall semester.

The Hogs in Season Openers

For the third straight season and only the fourth time since 1988, Arkansas opens the season on the road. The Razorbacks dispatched Dallas Baptist 13-3 in the 2005 season opener in Dallas and George Mason 4-1 in the Jaguar Invitational in Mobile, Ala., in 2006. The only other time since 1988 the Hogs have opened on the road was a 7-3 loss to TCU in Forth Worth in 1994.

Arkansas is 36-11 in season openers dating back to the 1960 season and have won 12 straight dating back to the 1994 loss at TCU. The Razorbacks are 7-6 in season opening games on the road since 1960. Arkansas is also 4-0 in season openers under skipper Dave Van Horn. The Hogs are 32-5 in season openers since 1970, the year Norm DeBriyn took over as the program’s head coach.

Scouting the Bulldogs

The Razorbacks and Bulldogs are meeting for the fifth straight season and for the 20th time in school history. Arkansas holds a 17-2 edge in the all-time series, including a 9-1 mark under head coach Dave Van Horn whose only loss came during the 2005 season in Ruston.

Louisiana Tech is led by head coach Tony Simoneaux, who is in his fifth year with the Bulldogs. Tech is coming off of a 33-25 record in 2006, which was its best since 1989. The Bulldogs narrowly missed an NCAA Tournament bid.

The 2007 Bulldog team is picked to finish third in the Western Athletic Conference by league coaches and second by Baseball America. Louisiana Tech boasts the preseason WAC Player of the Year in Jericho Jones and the preseason pitcher of the year in right-hander Luke Burnett. Senior Ryan Rupert returns for his senior season and is picked to Baseball America’s preseason all-conference team. Jones is considered the top pro prospect in the WAC by Baseball America while Burnett is ranked fourth. Burnett will start on Friday and Jones on Saturday. Right-hander Dylan Moseley will start the series finale for the Bulldogs on Sunday.

Host of Publications Tab Schmidt First-Team All-American

Arkansas sophomore left-handed pitcher Nick Schmidt was a named a preseason Louisville Slugger First-Team All-American by Collegiate Baseball.

Schmidt, a native of St. Louis, is 17-5 with a 2.91 ERA and 234 strikeouts in his career. He was named the SEC Pitcher of the Year by league coaches last season. Schmidt is also a preseason first-team All-American by the the NCBWA, Rivals.com and the College Baseball Foundation. He is a second-team selection by Baseball America.

Hamblin Returns for Senior Season

Arkansas third baseman/first baseman Danny Hamblin returns for his senior season in 2007. He was selected with the ninth round with the 278th overall pick of the 2006 MLB Draft by the Oakland Athletics. Hamblin is a preseason thrid-team All-American by Louisville Slugger. The Rowlett, Texas, native put together one of the most complete seasons for a Razorback in recent memory in 2006. He was the only player in the SEC to rank in the top 10 in home runs and stolen bases. Hamblin was thrid in the league with 68 RBI. He tied for seventh in home runs (17) and stolen bases (15).

Preseason Polls Tout Razorbacks

The 2007 preseason polls have Arkansas predicted to be among the best teams in the country. The Razorbacks are a consensus top-10 team in the five preseason polls. The No. 4 ranking by Collegiate Baseball was the highest preseason ranking in school history. Baseball America and the USA Today/Coaches’ Poll ranked the Hogs seventh, while UA checked in at No. 8 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association poll and No. 9 by Rivals.com.

Preseason Polls Ranking

Collegiate Baseball 4th

Baseball America 7th

USA Today Coaches 7th

NCBWA 8th

Rivals.com 9th

Hogs Boast Deep Pitching Staff

The Razorbacks feature one of the deepest pitching staffs in recent memory in Fayetteville with the likes of Nick Schmidt and Shaun Seibert. Arkansas returns six pitchers from its 2006 staff that finished a 3.64 ERA, which is the lowest by a UA club in 15 years.

The staff also gets a boast from highly-touted junior-college transfers Jess Todd, Duke Welker and Travis Hill. Welker is ranked as the No. 70 pro prospect in college baseball by Baseball America while Todd is listed at No. 73. Schmidt leads that list for the Hogs at No. 13.

Hamblin, Schmidt and Walker Selected as Captains

The Arkansas baseball team selected three captains for the 2007 season last fall. Both senior Danny Hamblin and junior Brain Walker were selected for a second straight season, while junior Nick Schmidt was picked for a first time.

SEC Coaches Pick Hogs in SEC West

The Southeastern Conference coaches picked Arkansas to win the SEC’s Western division in their annual preseason poll.

The Razorbacks were picked third in the West in the 2004 and 2005 preseason polls and last in the SEC West prior to the 2004 campaign. Arkansas finished second in the SEC West last season and tied for fifth in 2005. UA proved the critics wrong in 2004 by winning the SEC title.

Arkansas garnered 66 points in the 2007 poll’s Western Division with every possible first-place vote (11). Ole Miss finished second with 53 points and Alabama finishing third with 47 points. Ole Miss received one first-place votes in the Western Division.

South Carolina was selected as the conference’s overall champion with seven of the 12 overall first-place votes. Arkansas garnered three and Vanderbilt two.

Points were compiled on a 6-5-4-3-2-1 basis for each division. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team. Each coach also voted for one team as an overall conference champion.

SEC Champion: South Carolina (7), Arkansas (3), Vanderbilt (2)

Eastern Division

Team Points’06 SEC Record‘06 Finish

1. So. Carolina (9)6315-15 4th

2. Vanderbilt (3) 5416-14 3rd

3. Tennessee 3911-18 5th

4. Kentucky 3120-10 1st

5. Georgia3018-122nd

6. Florida 2910-20 6th

Western Division

Team Points ’06 SEC Record‘06 Finish

1. Arkansas (11) 6618-12 2nd

2. Ole Miss (1) 53 17-13 3rd

3. Alabama 47 20-10 1st

4. LSU 33 13-17 4th

5. Auburn 249-21 6th

6. Mississippi St. 2312-17 5th

() – first-place votes

Hogs Post 3.11 GPA During Fall Semester

The Arkansas baseball team proved they were truly student-athletes during the 2006 fall semester with an impressive 3.11-team grade point average.

The 3.11-team GPA follows a 2.9 GPA in the spring of 2006 and a 3.15 GPA during the fall of 2005.

The Razorbacks had 31 players compile a GPA of 3.0 or better with two players, Brandon Barr and Brad Secrist, making a perfect 4.0.

Senior right-hander Brian McLelland earned his degree in chemical engineering in December. Volunteer assistant coach Bubbs Merrill also earned his degree in sociology and former Hog Clay Goodwin finished his masters in adult education.

Fourteen Razorbacks posted GPAs of 3.5 or better during the fall, including Barr (4.0), Casey Coon (3.8), Thomas Hauskey (3.81), Travis Hill (3.81), Scott Limbocker (3.8), Brian McLelland (3.71), Sam Murphy (3.81), Chad Pierce (3.60), Stephen Richards (3.8), Secrist (4.0), Shaun Seibert (3.53), Jess Todd (3.8), Ben Tschepikow (3.8) and Michael Wild (3.5).

Hogs Believed to 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. 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 last season.

In an informal survey by the Baton Rouge (La.) Advocate, Arkansas led all SEC schools in actual attendance. The Razorbacks’ average of 5,247 fans in actual attendance would rank fifth nationally on the NCAA’s paid attendance rankings. LSU finished second in The Advocate’s survey of actual attendance with 3,922 fans per game. Below is a breakdown of both paid and actual attendance at Baum Stadium over the past four seasons.

Baum Stadium is undergoing its third expansion since prior to the 2003 season with the addition of 20 luxury suites, over 1,500 chairback seats and an expanded Hog Pen. Baum Stadium will now features 34 luxury suites, 8,237 chairback seats and a capacity of 10,737 with additional standing room only available.

Year Tickets Sold Actual Attendance

2006 206,352 (7,116) 164,608 (5,676)

2005 200,378 (7,156) 146,902 (5,247)

2004 (regular season) 134,525 (4,204) 91,779 (2,868)

2004 (w/postseason) 188,753 (4,840) 146,007 (3,743)

2003 100,372 (3,585) 60,510 (2,161)

2007 Outlook (from media guide)

The College World Series is once again on the minds of the 2007 Arkansas baseball team as the road to Omaha begins with the first pitch of the 2007 season.

The Razorbacks feature an exciting blend of accomplished veteran leadership and an influx of talented newcomers. UA is ranked No. 4 in Collegiate Baseball’s Preseason Top 40 poll and seventh in Baseball America’s preseason rankings.

Dave Van Horn’s club is coming off a 2006 season that saw the Hogs host the third NCAA Regional in school history, finish second in the SEC’s Western Division with an 18-12 record and finish with a 39-21 overall mark.

That squad returns the likes of first-team All-American left-handed pitcher Nick Schmidt, third-team preseason All-American Danny Hamblin and senior outfielder Jake Dugger.

Schmidt spent his summer as a starting pitcher for the USA National Team. Fellow junior hurler Shaun Seibert also returns to help anchor the Hogs’ pitching staff after being named the Cape Cod Baseball League Co-Pitcher of the Year.

The pitching staff is also bolstered by the return of junior catcher Brian Walker, who caught fire at the plate down the stretch in 2006 and is known for his game management and defensive prowess.

"From the start of the season through what we plan on being a trip to Omaha, the 2007 season is going to be exciting," Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. "I know the coaching staff is kind of chomping at the bit to get it going. We feel like we have a great nucleus of players. We are going to have depth and competition at every position and the deepest pitching staff since I came to Arkansas."

To compliment the Razorbacks’ core group of returning players the coaching staff brought in one of the most dynamic recruiting classes in school history. A contingent of 24 newcomers that includes 12 freshman, nine junior-college transfers and three transfers from four-year colleges will join 14 returning letterman for the 2007 season.

"This will be the most talented team we have had as far as professional talent and experience coming back in key roles," Van Horn said. "This year I think we have gotten over the hump with kids returning, for example Danny Hamblin turning down ninth-round money and getting Brian Walker back. Plus we were able to hold on to some of our top recruits."

The Razorbacks 2007 schedule features 25 games with 10 teams that qualified for the NCAA Tournament last season. The Hogs play 29 home games beginning on Feb. 16 with a three-game set with Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The remainder of the home non-conference schedule consists of games with Illinois State, Kansas, Oral Roberts, Northern Colorado, Missouri State and Wichita State. The home SEC schedule features Vanderbilt (March 23-25), Mississippi State (April 6-8), Florida (April 13-15), LSU (May 4-6) and Ole Miss (May 17-19).

THE PITCHING STAFF

Pitching coach Dave Jorn’s staff could be his deepest, and most talented since he returned to Fayetteville in 2003. The rotation of Schmidt and Seibert will be joined by 12 newcomers and a solid core of returning talent.

"Depth on the mound has probably been the No. 1 problem since I got here," Van Horn said. "We have always had one or two guys that could beat you on the weekend, but maybe didn’t have that true closer or that Sunday starter. We feel like this year we are going to have returning guys and new guys that are battling for one of those four or five starting jobs during the week. We will also have a couple of guys that are experienced coming out of the bullpen that had those roles in junior college."

Schmidt enters his junior season as a top contender for the Golden Spikes Award, the Roger Clemens Award and the Dick Howser Award. He is also a first-team preseason All-American and is currently fourth in career strikeouts at Arkansas after posting the second-highest strikeout total in school history in 2006, fanning 145 batters.

Seibert appears to have matured into the type of pitcher that Hogs’ coaches always believed he would be – dominating. After posting a 4-0 record with a 2.79 ERA for the Razorbacks in 2006, he ventured to the Cape Cod Baseball League where he went 6-0 with a 0.35 ERA in 51.2 innings of work for the Brewster Whitecaps, earning Co-Pitcher of the Year honors.

"The two guys that jump out at you right away are Nick and Shaun," Van Horn said. "Nick has been pitching on the weekends since the first game of his freshman season. Shaun Seibert has been in and out of that rotation, but he finished pretty well for us last season. Then he went out and had a tremendous summer pitching in the Cape Cod League, which is the best league in the country as far as summer ball goes. He actually dominated a little bit. He put up good numbers and did a great job, which I think is really going to boost his confidence.

"With those two guys established, then you back them up with some of these young guys and transfers and that is potential for an outstanding staff."

The remaining spot in the weekend rotation and finding a dominating closer will be two areas of intense competition this fall.

The third starter has been a problem over the past several years, but the Hogs appear to have a wealth of possibilities in 2007. Senior right-hander Chris Rhoads pitched well during the summer and will contend for that spot, but a group of newcomers also has the coaching staff excited.

"Right now we are looking at Duke Welker, a big right-hander out of the state of Washington that played at Seminole [Okla.] Junior College and Jess Todd a junior college All-American from Navarro," Van Horn said. "Then you have a true freshman in lefty Dallas Keuchel that can really pitch. He has a plus changeup, a good curveball and an 87-88 mph fastball with good movement."

Welker posted a 2.31 ERA Seminole [Okla.] State College last season. Todd earned junior college All-America honors after going 11-3 with a 1.39 ERA and 115 strikeouts. Todd is also in the mix to close for the Hogs along with fellow junior college transfer Travis Hill.

Hill has experience in the closer’s role after an outstanding career at Seminole [Okla.] State College. He saved 11 games last season and struck out an average of 1.43 batters per inning to rank seventh in NJCAA baseball.

A host of others are expected to be called on for outs and additional depth in the bullpen, including senior lefty James Gilbert, senior right-hander Brian McLelland, sophomore Michael Wild and a host of freshmen.

THE LINEUP

The arrival of hitting coach Todd Butler made an immediate impact in the power department for Arkansas in 2006. The Hogs connected for 64 home runs, the most since setting the school record of 84 in 1998. Leading the way in that category was Hamblin, who hammered 17 home runs, tying him for the fifth-most all-time at Arkansas.

"Getting Danny (Hamblin) back was huge for us," Van Horn said. "Danny is actually getting healthy now where he might be able to play third base. But having his experience and leadership, along with having been through the league for three years, brings a lot to the table."

Hamblin’s return along with Dugger, Walker and Matt Willard gives the Razorbacks a dangerous foursome to build around in 2007. Throw in a healthy Ben Tschepikow, who hit .400 as a freshman in 2005, and the Hogs have plenty of experience returning.

Hamblin will try and win the job at third base with a throwing arm that finally appears ready. If not, then a return to first base is likely for the Rowlett, Texas, native. Behind Hamblin at third base is sophomore Logan Forsythe, who just might be the best defensive third baseman in the SEC.

Willard is the Razorbacks’ returning starter at shortstop after hitting .286 with two home runs and 20 RBI. He is coming off of all-league honors this summer in the Texas Collegiate League after hitting .336 with 12 stolen bases.

True freshman Tim Smalling has impressed the coaching staff at shortstop with his soft hands and accurate throwing arm.

Casey Coon, a middle infielder out of the Community College of Southern Nevada, will provide a stiff challenge at both shortstop and second base. Coon hit .367 in 2006 with 29 stolen bases and a .435 on-base percentage to earn player of the year honors in the wood bat Scenic West Athletic Conference.

Coon and Smalling will also challenge Tschepikow at second base. Tschepikow missed almost all of last year after undergoing back surgery in late March.

There are several options for Van Horn at first base with several talented newcomers ready if Hamblin secures the starting job at third base.

"If Hamblin is not playing third base then he will be at first," Van Horn said. "And then you have Murray Watts, a 6-foot, 7-inch freshman that hits left handed. Then we have Aaron Murphree, a big 6-foot, 5-inch right-handed hitter out of Texas that can also play in the outfield. He runs very well for a big man. Freshman Dylan Duren will also be in the mix at first base.

There finally appears to be a little relief for Walker behind the plate. Walker has started nearly every game at catcher during the past two seasons, and his body has shown the signs at the end of each year with a bevy of injuries. Enter Jeff Nutt, a junior-college transfer with good defensive skills and a tremendous bat.

"Behind the plate you have Brain Walker who has been our catcher for two years and gotten it done," Van Horn said. "Jeff Nutt is an outstanding hitter, who has really improved his defensive skills over the past couple of years in junior college.”

True freshman Chad Pierce has a tremendous arm and is a big kid at 6-foot, 1-inch and 215 pounds. Physically he is ready to go, but he just might have to learn the ropes a little bit.

The outfield went from one of the thinnest positions on the team to loaded with several talented junior-college transfers and three four-year college transfers.

"Our only returning starter in the outfield is Jake Dugger, who wants to play center field, and he might get that job," Van Horn said. "We have a junior-college transfer named Sean Jones coming in and Jerrod Carroll, a redshirt freshman, who really picked it up in the second half of the TCL season."

"We have a couple of transfers and one that jumps out at you is Jacob Julius out of an NAIA school (Spaulding University), who hit over .370 with a wooden bat this summer," Van Horn said. "He is a lefty that can also play first base.

A junior college player that could have a big impact for the Razorbacks is Murphree out of Northeast Texas Junior College. He hit .461 with 19 doubles, 10 triples and eight home runs to go along with 32 stolen bases.

"Then there are some guys that were on the team last year like Wayne Hrozek and Stephen Robison," Van Horn said. "Wayne is known for his bat and Stephen for this defense and base running, so there are definitely some options."

Download: Arkansas Baseball Notes – Louisiana Tech.pdf



Sports Category : Baseball