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Razorbacks open 2010 with Ball State

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Razorbacks open 2010 with Ball State

FAYETTEVILLE – After a preseason full of team and individual recognition, the University of Arkansas baseball team will open its 2010 season Feb. 19 against Ball State in the first of a three-game series at Baum Stadium. The season opener is set for a 3:05 p.m. first pitch with Saturday and Sunday’s game scheduled to start at 1:05 p.m."Obviously, we’re very excited about getting this season started," head coach Dave Van Horn said. "The team is physically in good shape. I feel like this team is as mentally tough as any team we’ve had. I think a lot of it is because of the way we finished last year. I feel good about who we have leading this team on the field and in the locker room."Still riding the high of a run to last season’s College World Series, the Razorbacks have grabbed the attention of the nation’s pollsters. With the preseason release of the various polls, Arkansas is ranked as high as No. 15 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and Rivals.com. The USA Today/ESPN poll has the Hogs at No. 16, while Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball have the Razorbacks ranked No. 17 and No. 23, respectively.Within the Southeastern Conference, the Razorbacks were picked to finish second in the Western Division in the preseason coaches’ poll. Arkansas received four first-place votes, trailing early SEC favorite LSU by just four points. The Hogs also received three of the 12 votes in the race for the overall conference title.Arkansas finished 2009 with a 41-24 record and, despite losing some key pieces from that team, the Razorbacks return 19 letterwinners for the upcoming season, including preseason All-Americans Zack Cox, Brett Eibner and Andy Wilkins.On the mound, the Razorbacks will have to replace the strong arm of Dallas Keuchel and will turn to the familiar faces of Eibner, Mike Bolsinger and Drew Smyly to fill the void. Bolsinger’s abilities to be an effective pitcher, whether he is starting or relieving, were backed up by his inclusion on the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Watch List.The 2010 roster includes 13 newcomers with eight true freshman and five junior college transfers. Freshman Matt Reynolds and Matt Vinson are challenging for a spot in the starting lineup, while DJ Baxendale figures to be an important piece of the Razorback rotation. Monk Kreder, a transfer from Howard College, is a big bat in the middle of the Arkansas lineup.This weekend’s opponent, the Ball State Cardinals, is the defending Mid-American Conference West Division champion. Ball State was selected by its league coaches to repeat and is favored to win the conference tournament. Among the Cardinals’ 16 returning letterwinners is junior Kolbrin Vitek, a preseason All-America selection. The series matchup marks the first meeting between Arkansas and Ball State. Under Van Horn, who is entering his eighth season at the helm of the program, the Razorbacks are 7-0 in season openers.Fans can listen to this weekend’s action on the Razorback Sports Network from ISP. Chuck Barrett returns to the booth as the network’s play-by-play announcer. There will also be an audio and video stream available at the online home of Razorback athletics, ArkansasRazorbacks.com.



Sports Category : Baseball