Diamond Hogs Make Cuts

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn has trimmed his roster from 41 to 34 players after fall practices.

The players cut were pitchers Matt Stallings, Brandon Laney, Justin Moring, Matt Gilbert and Barrett Burka and infielder/pitcher Chris Weast and outfielder Chris Nelson.

Van Horn, in his third season at Arkansas, said he'd like to keep them all this winter, but added there were just too many to keep track of.

"It usually is better to just trim up the roster and try to bring the team a little bit closer together," Van Horn said. "It just makes it a little bit easier to handle the team and work with the guys that we have.

"We have a lot of young kids that are going to battle to play this year and they're going to be great backups and they're going to be outstanding starters in the future and we really need to spend time with those guys."

But Van Horn and his staff won't leave the players who have been cut out to dry. They'll work with each to try to find a college team where they fit in.

"If they really want to play, we can help them," Van Horn said. "Most of the kids that we let go and they're not a junior college transfer, we can get them hooked up and get them a very good scholarship at a place where they can have a lot of success."

Van Horn's excitement about the players who remain is hard to miss as he glows with anticipation about the upcoming season, especially on the heels of Arkansas making the College World Series last season.

"Infield-wise, this is one of the deepest infields that I've coached," Van Horn said. "It's obvious that we should start some of the older guys because they're a little better, but there's a lot of competition."

At shortstop, senior returning starter Scott Hode is being contested by newcomers John Henry Marquardt and Ben Tschepikow.

"They all played very good shortstop," Van Horn said. "We could put any of them in the game and not lose a whole lot."

At second, Marquardt and Tschepikow are battling senior Scott Bridges and true freshman Brock Bond for playing time.

Sophomore Danny Hamblin, a freshman All-American who had shoulder surgery in the off-season, and senior Clay Goodwin will likely end up at first and third base, respectively.

Blake Parker and Brian Walker appear to have shored up the catching duties.

"Walker got ranked ahead of Parker (at catcher) with our players," Van Horn said. "And if we started tomorrow, that's the way I see it as well."

The pitching staff is anchored by junior team captain Charley Boyce. Van Horn mentioned newcomers T.J. Sinovich, Shaun Siebert, Devon Collis and Phillip Graham as possible weekend starters. He also likes returnees Justin White and Daryl Maday as well as Lee Land and Josh Smith, two hard-throwing righties who are recovering from Tommy John surgery.

"We have a difficult decision on who to play more than in the past," Van Horn said. "It doesn't mean we have better players one through nine (in the lineup), but we have more depth if somebody goes down or if somebody is not doing well.

"We had some guys hit some slumps last year and we just kind of had to ride them out.

"But this year, I think our offense should stay pretty steady all year."

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