Razorbacks Play Away and Home Midweek
The Razorbacks are back to a five-game week with a Tuesday night contest in Tulsa, Okla., with Oral Roberts followed by a Wednesday evening contest with Alcorn State on Wednesday. The Alcorn State game was added to the schedule to replace one of the three Arkansas games this season that have been cancelled due to rain.
Arkansas (19-15, 5-9 SEC) is coming off a big weekend when it took two of three from 21st-ranked Florida in Gainesville. The series win for the Razorbacks was its first at Florida since the 1999 season and its first SEC series win of the year. The Razorbacks will try to build upon the momentum they gained in Gainesville as it takes on Oral Roberts (24-8, 7-1 Summit) and Alcorn State (21-7, 7-5 SWAC).
The Razorbacks success over the weekend started in the dugout where the Hogs were as emotional as they have been all season. Early run production also contributed to strong pitching performances from the starters and gave the Hogs an opportunity to win each of the three games. Arkansas ants to keep that momentum going as it heads into a pair of tough mid-week games before returning to SEC play this weekend.
Senior Jeff Nutt and junior Ryan Cisterna were hot at the plate in the Florida series. Nutt went 6-10 in the three-game set with two home runs and four RBI while Cisterna hit .385, easily his best series of the season collecting five hits. Also showing signs of life at the plate was freshman Brett Eibner who may have had just four hits, but drove in four runs with those base knocks, coming up big when the situation presented itself.
Both mid-week games 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.
Leading Off …
• Jeff Nutt continues to swing a hot bat since returning from injury. He is hitting .393 over the eight games he has played and in the Florida series knocked out six hits in 10 at bats with two walks. He also scored three runs, hit two home runs and drove in four.
• Catcher Ryan Cisterna put together his first three-game hitting streak in the Florida series and currently leads the Razorbacks with hits in four consecutive games. Cisterna batted .385 for the weekend with five hits and a startling three stolen bases.
• Brett Eibner continues to hit the ball well. Coming off a week where he hit .417, Eibner cranked out another four hits in the Florida series for a .308 average and came up with multiple “big” hits as he drove in four runs with just one extra-base hit.
• Arkansas and Oral Roberts met just a week ago at Baum Stadium and the Golden Eagles walked away with what appeared to be an easy 9-4 win. The Golden Eagles used six pitchers in the victory as they cranked out 14 hits and scored seven runs in the middle innings.
• The Razorback pitching staff should be well rested as it heads into the mid-week games with Oral Roberts and Alcorn State. Only five Arkansas pitchers were used in the Florida series as the Razorback starters pitched 22.2 innings of the 26 played. Stephen Richards (3.0) and Evan Cox (0.1) were the only relievers used in the series.
• Stephen Richards was brilliant against Florida throwing three innings and facing just nine batters over two games. He notched a career-high tying four strikeouts in the Sunday game and five of the nine out he recorded came via the whiff.
• Andy Wilkins’ two-out single in the top of the ninth inning was the key to Arkansas’ come-from behind victory at Hammons Field in Springfield, Mo.
• The combination of Travis Hill and Evan Cox combined for Arkansas’ first shut out of the season on Tuesday, March 25, against Centenary. The tandem threw nine innings of two-hit baseball and became the first pair to throw a two-hitter since the 2006 season.
• Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn was named to the College Baseball Foundation’s National All-Star Lineup on March 25 for coaching the Razorbacks to his 800th win as a head coach.
• Arkansas came back from a nine-run deficit at LSU 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 at LSU 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.
• 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.
• 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 his 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 Golden Eagles
Not much has changed for Oral Roberts over the course of the last week. The Golden Eagles can pound the ball as evidenced by their .307 team batting average and have a serviceable pitching staff who has accumulated a 4.56 ERA.
Six of Oral Roberts regular starters have batting averages over .300 and Brian Van Kirk continues to dominate pitchers at the plate with a batting average of .417. Van Kirk is a monster at the dish with 48 hits in 115 at bats, eight doubles, seven home runs, 33 RBI and 28 walks. Interestingly, Van Kirk does not lead Oral Roberts in hits this year despite his average. That honor goes to Brendan Duffy who has 49 hits and a .350 average.
Arkansas saw a lot of Oral Roberts pitching staff in their last meeting as six Golden Eagles pitchers threw on the cold night in Fayetteville. Tuesday’s starter is expected to be left-hander Kelly Minissale a back of the rotation guy who has pitched in six games this season with a 7.24 earned run average. Expect more of the same from the Golden Eagles in this mid-week contest as it will use its bullpen liberally.
With the addition of their first game this season, Arkansas and Oral Roberts have now met 90 times over the years with the Razorbacks holding a commanding 58-32 lead in the meetings. ORU has done well of late however, taking four of the last five meetings between the two schools.
Scouting the Braves
Alcorn State enters the Arkansas game with an impressive record of 21-7 overall, but are just 10-5 in SWAC play with two losses to Mississippi Valley State, two to Jackson State and one to Alabama State. The Braves are an offensive machine with huge numbers at the plate, but struggle a bit on the mound with an elevated earned run average.
Alcorn State, like Arkansas, is coming off a road series victory, theirs at Alabama State where it crushed its opponent with scores of 15-6, 7-11 and 15-10. The middle-game loss by the Braves was its only defeat in the last five games played.
Offensively, Alcorn State has three hitters with batting averages over .400 and three others with averages topping .350. Joel Del Grande is the hitting leader with an average of .479 over 26 games. He has 35 hits in 73 at bats and 14 doubles to go along with 14 walks. Del Grande has also driven in 26. Also topping the Ted Williams line of .400 is David Reed (.441 in 20 games) and Jabari Graham (.405 in 24 games).
The pitching mound seems to be Alcorn State’s weakness as its hurlers have conceded 178 runs (132 earned) over 200 innings. A team ERA of nearly six and an opponents batting average of .300 are also signs of struggling pitching. The staff can get hitters out without the benefit of its defense as it averages more than seven strikeouts per game, but also walks more than five.
The meeting between Arkansas and Alcorn State is the first ever between the two schools.
Tennessee Game Time Changed
The Arkansas-Tennessee game time for Sunday, April 20 has been changed to a 1:05 start at Baum Stadium. Originally scheduled for a 12:05 start, the game time was moved based on travel considerations for the Univ. of Tennessee. Sunday’s game time is the only time change in the series. Friday night is still scheduled for 6:35 and Saturday for 2:05.
Forsythe Solid All-Around
Arkansas junior Logan Forsythe has been a rock for the Razorbacks at third base all season. Fighting nagging maladies throughout the year, the Memphis, Tenn., native has never complained and gone out and performed at the highest levels. He leads the Razorbacks in five offensive categories including average (.340), triples (2), walks (25), on-base percentage (.471) and stolen bases (9), while playing superb third base. Forsythe is widely regarded as one of the best defensive third-basemen in the college game and has the ability to play other infield spots as well.
Van Horn Gets 800
Arkansas’ comeback against LSU on Saturday, March 22 was an amazing accomplishment and anyone in attendance could attest to that. What made the win even more special for the Razorbacks head man was that it was his 800th career victory as a head coach. Van Horn made the milestone win in his 21st season and for the effort was recently named to the College Baseball Foundation’s National All-Start Lineup for the week that was March 25.
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.
All told, Arkansas players have missed more than 100 games this season to injuries ranging from hamstring pulls to broken hands.
Logan Forsythe missed several games to a hamstring injury and upon his return has hit the ball very well.
Andy Wilkins tweaked an oblique muscle in the Auburn series and is day-to-day.
Wayne 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. Hrozek has recently had his cast removed and his status for the rest of the season will be determined by how he can recover over the next week.
Ryan Cisterna was leveled on a play at the plate at Vanderbilt and came away with his arm in a sling. Cisterna took several days off from competition, but returned to the lineup one week later when he started the Saturday game with Auburn.
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.
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 made his first return to the lineup against Vanderbilt and not a moment too soon.
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 26 starts in center field and two on the mound for Arkansas. He has also made three relief appearances out of the Hogs’ bullpen.
Eibner is third on the team with a .333 average at the plate (35 for 105) with five home runs and 29 RBI. He has also scored 18 runs while drawing 13 walks and has been hit by six pitches to post a .432 on-base percentage. On the mound, Eibner is 2-1 on the season with a 6.11 ERA with 16 strikeouts to just 11 walks in 17.2 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.
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.
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.
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. In 2008, senior Aaron Murphree leads the way with six game-winning hits, freshmen Andy Wilkins picked up his third against Centenary and Brett Eibner has two. Ben Tschepikow, Ryan Cisterna and Tim Smalling 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)
3/14 Georgia Brett Eibner HR (5th)
3/19 #22 Nebraska Ryan Cisterna HR, 2 RBI (8th)
3/21 LSU Tim Smalling HR (10th)
3/25 Centenary Andy Wilkins HR, 2 RBI (1st)
4/1 at Missouri State Ben Tschepikow SF, 1 RBI (10th)
4/5 Auburn Logan Forsythe 1B, 1 RBI (8th)
4/11 #25 Florida Jeff Nutt HR, 1 RBI (8th)
* 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)