State of the Hogs: String Time

Pitching in a hitter's park won't change the focus for Arkansas pitchers. They are going to keep doing what they do.

Dave Jorn is old school. Do what you do on a daily basis and things work out.

So it didn't surprise when he shrugged his shoulders at a reporter's question about a possible change in approach for Arkansas pitchers when they travel to play in Arizona State's park this weekend in the NCAA Tempe Regional.

No, the Hogs will try to pitch the same way. They won't change because Winkles Field-Packard Stadium at Brock Ballpark might favor hitters more than pitchers.

Dimensions of the park don't suggest it's set up to favor hitters. It's 338 feet down the lines, 368 feet in the power alleys and 395 to straightaway center with a 10-foot fence. That's similar to Baum Stadium's 320 down the lines, 375 in the alleys and 400 to center.

"But the ball flies out there," Arkansas catcher James McCann said. "It's a hitter's park. The air is dry and it seemed like the wind was out all of the time in the games we played last year there in the Super Regional. You compare that to our park, the wind blows in 95 percent of the time. And we just got through at the SEC tournament where it's a graveyard in the outfield.

"This is going to be fun for the hitters. I think (the hitters) are all excited."

Shortstop Tim Carver added a second.

"The ball travels out there in that dry air," he said. "It's a hitter's park."

Outfielder Collin Kuhn noted the crushed brick infield when he added, "The ball flies and it's also a hard, compacted surface. The ball gets through the infield fast."

Jorn, with 15 years as UA pitching coach, admits it's going to be different than what the Hogs have seen on an every day basis at Baum.

"Yeah, but that's not how we go about things," he said. "Our focus doesn't change whether or not it's a hitter's or a pitcher's park. You pitch the same.

"Our philosophy is to fill up the bottom of the zone. That works no matter the park. We keep it down. If the ball is down and you change speeds, you are going to be fine."

The Hogs went about their same routine Tuesday in their final practice before traveling to Arizona where they'll meet Charlotte at 4 p.m. Friday in the opening round of tournament play.

"We got out our strings and tried to hit our spots under them in our bullpen," Van Horn said. "That's what we do every day. We put them across out bullpen. You keep it under the string. You do that, you are going to be fine.

"Anyway, you can't do a thing about the size of the park. I do understand that when you are in a big park with the wind blowing in, you might challenge the hitter a little more.

"But you can't change too much if the wind is blowing out or it's a small park. You start trying to be too fine and you are behind in the count. Then you are in trouble.

"No, we are going to pound the bottom of the zone and change speeds. The ball needs to be down. But that's always the case."

The only Razorback with a lot of experience in the ASU park is sophomore righthander DJ Baxendale, the Hogs' scheduled starter for the Friday opener. But Jorn thinks the Hogs are deep and good on the mound.

"Yeah, this is a staff of freshmen and sophomores, but they've all pitched a lot this year," he said. "They aren't young any more. They've all pitched in tough situations all year. I don't think anything bothers them now. There's not much they haven't seen.

"I've said from the start that I like this staff. They've got some talent, but maybe aren't the most talented I've ever seen. But what they do is they listen. They'll take coaching. They try to do what you tell them to do and they do give you effort. I like them a lot."

And they're all ready to pitch.

"Everyone on the staff threw 40 pitches today in our bullpen and they all looked good," Jorn said. "All of them. I think all of them are ready to pitch out there.

"I think they are looking forward to it. I think they are going to do well, too.

"Yeah, it's a good hitter's park. But we don't worry about things you can't control. We didn't worry when we saw we weren't playing at home. You just take what you are given and go at it. We were sent on the road and that's fine.

"Some things you can control, but this isn't one of them. We are going to worry about the things we can control."

Jorn did have one thing to add as he headed for the clubhouse to pack his bags for Tempe.

"Don't be surprised by how we do," he said. "We are going out there expecting to do well."

The Arkansas pitchers believe they are in control.

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