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Diamond Hogs Visit Top-Ranked Arizona State

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Diamond Hogs Visit Top-Ranked Arizona State

#19 Arkansas Razorbacks

(11-1, 0-0 SEC)

vs.

#1 Arizona State

(12-0, 0-0 PAC-10)

Packard Stadium • Tempe, Ariz.

Broadcast Information

Razorbacks Baseball Radio Network

Chuck Barrett (play-by-play)

TV: None

Game Outlook

Game 13: Arkansas at Arizona State

Tues., March 11, 8:35 p.m. (CDT) – Packard Stadium

Probable Starting Pitchers

AR: 42 James Mahler, RHP (1-0, 4.82 ERA)

Or 35 Kendall Korbal, RHP (0-1, 4.15 ERA)

ASU: TBA

Game 14: Arkansas at Arizona State

Wed., March 12, 8:35 p.m. (CDT) – Packard Stadium

Probable Starting Pitchers

AR: 24 Brett Eibner, RHP (2-0, 6.00 ERA)

ASU: TBA

Diamond Hogs Visit Top-Ranked Arizona State

The Arkansas baseball team ventures to top-ranked Arizona State for a midweek series against the Sun Devils at Packard Stadium.

The series gets started at 8:35 p.m. (CDT) on Tuesday with the Wednesday game also slated for 8:35 p.m. (CT). It will be the third and fourth meetings between the two schools and the first time the Razorbacks and Sun Devils have met in the regular season. Arkansas won the first meeting in the 1989 Northeast Regional in Waterbury, Conn., 1-0, and ASU claimed an 8-4 win in the 1998 Midwest Regional at Eck Stadium in Wichita, Kan.

The 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.

Head coach Dave Van Horn’s club, which is ranked 19th in the latest USA Today Coaches’ Poll, has won six-straight games to improve their record to 11-1.

The Razorbacks are hitting .329 as a team with a .439 on-base percentage. Senior outfielder Aaron Murphree is providing the power with an unbelievable 12 home runs in 12 games and 28 RBI. Ben Tschepikow leads the Hogs with a .457 batting average.

Arkansas will start one of three freshmen right-handers in the two games against the Sun Devils. James Mahler (1-0, 4.82 ERA) or Kendall Korbal (0-1, 4.15 ERA) will start the first game with Brett Eibner penciled in to start game to on the mound. Eibner is 2-0 on the season with a 6.00 ERA.

Arizona State is hitting .328 as a team with 20 home runs and a .464 on-base percentage while the pitching staff boasts a 2.00 ERA and a .189 opponent batting average. The Sun Devils are undecided on starting pitchers for the midweek series.

Leading Off …

Aaron Murphree is on a home run terror never before seen at the University of Arkansas. The senior from Brock, Texas, has hit 12 home runs in 12 games this season, including 10 in the last six games. He has three multiple home run games after blasting three vs. Siena on March 7.

He was named the Collegiate Baseball National Hitter of the Week on Monday as well as the SEC Player of the Week.

The Diamonds Hogs exploded 74 runs with a .389 batting average with 17 home runs and 17 doubles in five games last week. Arkansas went 5-0 and posted a .751 slugging percentage with a .487 on-base percentage while fielding .989.

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 801). He boasts a 533-268 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 three wins shy of his 800th win as a head coach (797-351) over a 20-year career that included stops at Texarkana College, Central Missouri State, Northwestern (La.) State, Nebraska and Arkansas.

UA is hitting .293 with runners in scoring position through the first 12 games of the 2008 season. Aaron Murphree and Brett Eibner lead the way with a .444 average, while Logan Forsythe is hitting .429.

The Hogs have been at their best with two outs, sporting a .318-team average with 49 two-out RBI, which accounts for 45.0 percent of Arkansas’ RBI. Brett Eibner is hitting .538 with seven two-out RBI while Aaron Murphree is hitting .450 with 14 two-out RBI. Ben Tschepikow is hitting .462 with two down.

Chase Leavitt has been a force at the top of the Hogs’ lineup with a .342 batting average and a .519 on-base percentage. He is also tied for second on the team with 16 runs scored.

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. He will make his third start of the season on Sunday vs. Siena.

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 Sun Devils

Arizona State is 12-0 on the season and ranked No. 1 in three national polls entering the midweek series with the Razorbacks. Head coach Pat Murphy’s team is coming off of a trip to the College World Series in 2007.

ASU is hitting .328 as a team and averaging 11.5 runs per contest. Brett Wallace and former Kentucky player Jason Kipnis lead the Sun Devils at the plate. Kipnis is hitting .405 with six home runs and 22 RBI, while Wallace is batting .400 with five home runs and 17 RBI.

On the mound, Arizona State boasts a 2.00 ERA with an impressive .189 opponent batting average. The Sun Devils’ staff has struck out 113 while issuing just 30 walks.

A Look at the Razorbacks’ Rotation

Game 1: James Mahler, RHP (1-0, 4.82 ERA) – True freshman right-hander James Mahler is expected to get his team-high fourth start of the young season against top-ranked Arizona State in the first game the midweek series. He features a 90 mph fastball and a devastating knucklecurve ball that he can throw at any point in the count. He was outstanding in the first game of a doubleheader with South Dakota State on March 5, earning his first win of the season with 4.2 innings, allowing just one run on four hits with five strikeouts.

Game 2: Brett Eibner, RHP (2-0, 6.00 ERA) – After making his first start on the mound last week, freshman two-way right-hander Brett Eibner gets the second start of his UA career on the mound in the second game of the midweek series at No.1 Arizona State. Eibner has a low-to-mid 90s fastball and a power curveball. He won his second game of the season in the nightcap of the South Dakota State doubleheader last week with a career-best six strikeouts in five innings of work.

Van Horn’s Hogs Against the Top 5

Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn has been fairly successful against highly-ranked competition since taking over the Hogs in 2003. The Razorbacks are 19-12 against teams ranked in the top six under Van Horn’s supervision and 2-2 vs. No. 1 teams after taking the series with against Vanderbilt last season before dropping a 7-4 decision in the SEC Championship Game.

Arizona State will be the second No. 1 ranked team the Hogs have faced since 2001, but Arkansas is also 5-3 against teams ranked second since 2003, 4-2 vs. No. 4-ranked teams and 3-3 against No. 5s. The Hogs took two of three games from then-No. 2 South Carolina in Columbia in 2005 and swept second-ranked LSU in Baton Rouge in 2004.

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 in 2008.

Murphree produced one of the most amazing weeks in Arkansas baseball history last week 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 has homered in a school-record six-straight games and has 12 home runs on the season, which is halfway to Arkansas’ single-season home run record of 24. He was named the Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week and SEC Player of the Week on March 10.

Murphree is hitting .447 with as SEC-best 12 home runs and 28 RBI. He has a 1.298 slugging percentage and is reaching base at a .519 clip. He has also swiped a team-high four bases and scored a team-and SEC-high 20 runs. His best game came in the opening game 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 seven-multiple-hit games and eight-multiple-RBI games over the first 12 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 .328 batting average, a .595-team slugging percentage and a .439 on-base percentage. UA’ s 26 home runs lead the SEC, while its 65 strikeouts as a team as the second-lowest.

That is a 23-point improvement in batting average over last year through 12 games and a 90-point improvement in slugging percentage. The Hogs have banged out 26 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 12 games last year and his 28 RBI is eight more that Casey Coon had 12 games into the 2007 season.

Bullpen Coming to the Rescue

Arkansas’ revamped bullpen has been impressive through the first 12 games of the 2008 season. The Hogs’ relief staff has allowed just 16 earned runs in 63.2 innings for a 2.26 ERA and three saves. The bullpen has struck out 65 while issuing just 32 walks (2.02-to-1 ratio). The Razorbacks’ bullpen has a .202 opponent batting average for the season.

Seven of Arkansas’ 11 victories have come 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 three hits in 6.2 innings out of the pen with six strikeouts and a .143 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 nine starts in center field and one on the mound for Arkansas. He has also made two relief appearances out of the Hogs’ bullpen.

Eibner is batting a .417 at the plate (15 for 36) with two home runs and 14 RBI. He also has scored seven runs while drawing five walks and has been hit by two pitches to post a .500 on-base percentage. On the mound, Eibner is 2-0 on the season with a 6.00 ERA with 11 strikeouts on just two walks in nine 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 106 batters in 12 games for an average of 8.92 per nine innings. UA also set the school more 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 of the season. He pitched an Arkansas’ season-high 6.1 innings while allowing just one run on five hits. Springston is 3-0 on the season with a 0.96 ERA in a team-high 18.2 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 hitting .395 on the season with four home runs and 18 RBI in 11 games. He is hitting .400 with runners in scoring position with four doubles and 14 runs scored. He is reaching base at a .491 clip with a .767 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 as even better with a .381 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.

New Faces Dot Razorback Lineup

Several new faces will be seen on the baseball diamond for the 2008 Diamond Hogs as the season opens. As many as eight newcomers could see action early in the season, including five true freshmen.

The Hogs will start true freshman – James Mahler – on the mound on Tuesday while Andy Wilkins (DH/1B), Jacob House (1B/OF) and Brett Eibner (OF/RHP) have positioned themselves to be penciled into the lineup. Freshman Kendall Korbal is scheduled to make his second start vs. Texas A&M on Saturday.

Junior-college transfers are also making an immediate impact for the Razorbacks as shortstop Scott Lyons, outfielder/infielder Chase Leavitt and catcher Ryan Cisterna all have a chance to start for the Hogs.

On the mound even more newcomers are going to make immediate impact with LHP Cliff Springston, RHP Mike Bolsinger (starting vs. Kansas on Feb. 27), RHP Eibner and RHP Justin Wells.

USA Razorbacks

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.

Game-Winning Hits

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. Early on in 2008, senior Aaron Murphree leads the way with six game-winning hits, while freshman Andy Wilkins has two and Brett Eibner and Ben Tschepikow 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)

* 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)

Razorbacks Selected in the MLB Draft

Arkansas currently has seven players on its roster that have been selected in the Major League Baseball Draft. Below is a breakdown of Razorbacks that chose books over the bucks.

Player Year Round Pick Team

Brett Eibner, RHP 2007 4th 141 Houston Astros

Andy Wilkins, INF 2007 25th 770 Texas Rangers

Mike Bolsinger 2006 34th 1031 Cleveland Indians

Scott Lyons, INF 2007 36th 1099 Boston Red Sox

James Mahler, RHP 2007 42nd 1262 Philadelphia Phillies

Travis Hill, RHP 2005 42nd 1266 Texas Rangers

Ryan Cisterna, C 2006 47th 1391 Kansas City Royals

Ryan Cisterna, C 2007 48th 1351 Washington Nationals

Download: Arkansas Baseball Notes – at Arizona State.pdf



Sports Category : Baseball