Mystery Team?

Can the Arkansas offense stay focused for three days? That's the question assistant coach Todd Butler has been asking for several months.

Matt Reynolds called it "an insult" when ESPN's Kyle Peterson and Ben McDonald called the Arkansas offense "a mystery" when they were providing analysis for the Houston Regional of the NCAA baseball tournament.

Reynolds might be the only Razorback with enough numbers to take it that way. Afterall, Reynolds hit .342 this season to earn first team All-SEC honors at third base.

The Hogs hit .282 as a team, but they stranded enough base runners in a 16-14 SEC campaign to drive coaches and fans crazy. It was a lack of run production -- they scored one run in 18 innings at the SEC tournament -- that probably had Peterson and McDonald scratching their heads.

"You watch them in batting practice and they can hit," Peterson said. "I think if they get their offense going, they can make a run. They've been a mystery team to me as far as their offense."

McDonald also used the term "mystery team" in his analysis as the NCAA field was unveiled.

"I heard it," Reynolds said. "I took it as an insult. We don't want to be called a mystery offense. We are about to break loose. I know why they said it, though. We'd hit one game, then not score the next."

Arkansas batting coach Todd Butler said he laughed a little when he heard it.

"It's exactly what I've been calling this team for three months," Butler said. "They have heard that exact phrase from me. Over and over.

"You see them do it one game or two on the weekend, then not get a key hit in the other games. It's a mystery to me why they lose focus.

"It's a matter of playing three straight days with the same focus, energy and attitude. I've been telling them for three months.

"I hope it was an eye opener for them to hear that on ESPN about them. I've been telling them the same thing."

Dominic Ficociello was named to the All-SEC team, too, on Tuesday. But not for his offense. He had a decent year at the plate, hitting .309. But that wasn't good enough to get him on the regular SEC team. He got his honor for his defense. He's determined to get his offense going in Houston.

"I think it's about focus for all 27 outs and every game," Ficociello said. "I was angry when they called us a mystery team."

Ficociello's offense has been good from the right side where he hit .320. The switch-hitter slipped to .270 from the left side.

"He was still good for the year," Butler said. "When you hit .309 against this competition, you are a good player. But I think he can improve.

"He's just a little too aggressive sometimes from the left side. He goes for pitches in the dirt. I do think teams pitched around him a little bit. He's a good hitter and we didn't have much production at the bottom of the lineup, so that did happen some.

"What I will say about Dominic is that he doesn't leave anything in the tank. He gives it everything he has. He doesn't waiver. It's all effort. He just has to be a little more disciplined at the plate. He does bring a lot of energy to our team."

What does Butler want from the team this week in Houston when they begin regional play at 1 p.m. Friday against Sam Houston State?

"I just want them to be in tune on every pitch," he said. "I want them in on every pitch, every out for nine innings and for three days.

"I want them to play hard every day. That's what we ask of them. Hard, hard, hard. That's our emphasis, play hard all the way to the end.

"I think this team can still achieve it's goals. The expectations were high at the beginning and it's been a grind. That's what the SEC is always about, grinding. But now this is a fresh season.

"If we go down there and play well, we can win the regional. If we don't, our chances are slim. The key is to play well three straight days. That's what we have preached, preached, preached."

Expectations for this team were high at the outset. Players and coaches openly talked about making a run to Omaha for the College World Series.

"We've under achieved a little bit," Butler said. "I think we all feel that way. But I think it was probably about the expectations more than anything.

"When you talk about 16-14 (in the SEC), that's two games from the best in the last seven years. The most we've won is 18. So you are talking about one series as the swing. You win three more and you win the league."

Butler knows what waits on the Hogs in Houston for the first round. Sam Houston State played in the Southland Conference, a league Butler played in and coached in for many seasons.

"I know about the Bearkats," he said. "That will be a very good team. The Southland is under appreciated as far as college baseball. They've got two teams in the tournament and both are good.

"We know they have good pitching. The numbers their top two starters have posted are very good. We will have to play well."

If not, the Hogs will continue to be the mystery team.

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