Season Against Dallas Baptist

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas head baseball coach Dave Van Horn made a decision early this week to hand the ball to staff ace Charley Boyce in today's season opener at Dallas Baptist at 3 p.m.

On a Friday?

Boyce, a fourth-year junior right-hander, posted a 10-3 record with a 3.20 ERA last season while pitching on Saturdays, the spot usually reserved for a team's No. 2 pitcher.

"I hope Charley goes out and sets the tone (today)," said Van Horn, who begins his third season at Arkansas. "A lot of people are saying, 'Why don't you save him for UTA?' Well, we're playing Dallas Baptist at their park and I don't want to be 0-1 after (tonight).

"Next weekend (at Louisiana Tech), I may throw Charley on Saturday.

For Boyce, who'll be on an 80-85 pitch count today, it doesn't matter when he throws. He likes Saturdays, because that gives him a chance to study the opponent four or five times through their order.

But starting the season-opener is something he's been wanting to do since he signed with Arkansas out of Tulsa Union High in 2001.

"I've been around for a while, so it's nice to be finally starting opening day," Boyce said. "I'd like to be the Friday guy, mainly because you get to match up against the other team's ace under the lights. But I also like Saturdays because I get to watch the other team's hitters for myself and coach Van Horn feels better with me throwing on Saturdays.

"It doesn't matter which day I pitch on. I'll go out and do my best anyway."

The rest of the Razorbacks have been chomping at the bit to get the season under way. Fair weather has allowed the team to practice and scrimmage outdoors often over the past three weeks.

"It'll be nice to actually play against somebody else," said Brian Walker, who's expected to start at catcher. "We've been fighting each other all year and now we'll put the same uniform on be on the same team.

"And we're more than ready."

Dallas Baptist will be ready as well and will actually have two games under its belt when it hosts Arkansas. The Patriots beat Texas Wesleyan 9-8 in their opener on Saturday and were slated to play at Texas-Arlington on Thursday evening.

In the opener, the Pats were led by junior Israel Victor, who went 3 for 4 with four RBIs and a game-winning two-run homer in the seventh inning.

Dallas Baptist will start right-handed pitcher Rodney Brantley against the Razorbacks. The sophomore did not record a decision last season, but posted a 3.60 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 15 innings.

"Last year, we finished seventh in the country in team ERA so we try to focus on being strong on the mound," said first-year DBU coach Eric Newman. "This year, our pitchers are young, but we really have a lot of depth up and down the lineup and offense will really be the strongest part of our game."

Baseball America ranks the Pats the No. 1 Independent team in the nation in its annual preseason poll. The Pats are entering their second season in Division I play after going 44-16 last year. They won't be eligible for postseason play until next season when they become a full fledged member of D-I.

Today's game kicks off a four-game round robin for the Hogs as they'll play two games each against DBU and Texas-Arlington. The next three games will be at Texas-Arlington's Clay Gould Ballpark on Saturday and Sunday.

"I want to see some guys play outside competition so we can start making decisions," Van Horn said. "It's almost a tournament format, but we are playing UTA at their park twice. We'll see their one and two (best) pitchers and we'll see Dallas Baptists' one and two.

"We'll get a lot deeper into our pitching than Dallas Baptist will."

The UTA Mavericks are 2-1 after playing in the Texas-Pan American tournament in Edinburg, Texas. Right-handed pitcher Jake Baxter (1-0) allowed two hits and struck out eight in five scoreless innings of a 3-0 win against Texas State in the season opener. The performance earned the 6-foot-5 senior Southland Conference Pitcher of the Week honors.

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