Hogs' Parker Finally Cashes In

DALLAS -- Blake Parker knows what a difference a year makes.

The Arkansas sophomore hammered his first collegiate homer, a towering grand slam, in the fifth inning of his team's 13-3 win Friday against Dallas Baptist in Patriot Field.

With a 3-0 count, Parker cashed in on a fastball off DBU's Jereme Wilson and Razorbacks third-year coach Dave Van Horn estimated the drive over the left center field wall at 450 feet.

"That was a no-doubter," said Van Horn, who gave Parker the green light to swing with the favorable count. "The minute that left the bat, I knew that was a quick four runs.

"He got every bit of that."

In 165 at-bats last season, Parker hit hard liners into gaps, pop ups to the warning track and doubles off the wall on numerous occasions.

He never homered.

That's significant because Parker hit 28 home runs in his three-year career at Fayetteville High. He also raised expectations by piling up homers all through fall and spring practices of his freshman year at Arkansas.

And when he saw Razorbacks shortstop Scott Hode walked ahead of him to load the bases, Parker finally snapped, taking out his frustrations on the first pitch he saw in the strike zone.

If it had come earlier in the count, the same result would have been likely.

"It's kind of a slap in the face for someone to be walked in front of you," Parker said. "It's kind of frustrating to have 'warning-track power,' so it was good to see it finally clear the wall."

Parker, who also hit a moon shot to deep center that was caught in the eighth, is showing more patience and doesn't appear to be over swinging or going for the fence.

"Once you start thinking about (home runs), that's when you don't hit them," Parker said. "So you try to go out here and spray line drives everywhere and then it just happens. You're not trying to hit home runs."

Parker hit eighth in the batting order and started at first base. He'll play right field at times-- which he did in the late innings Friday -- and catch as well.

Home Crowd?
Despite Friday's game being played at Dallas Baptist, Arkansas clearly had the largest following for the opening pitch with more than two-thirds wearing Razorback red.

Several DBU students filed in during the first three innings to balance out the stands. The official attendance was listed generously at 650, but it took only around 100 Arkansas fans to fill up half of the stands.

"The Razorback club here had dinner for us (Thursday night) and some of them showed up," Van Horn said. "Then a lot of parents and kids we were recruiting from this area knew we were going to be in town, so it was nice.

"It was great to see half of the bleachers filled up with our fans and making noise, too."

Ricky Cochran, a Fayetteville native known as 'The Candy Man" because he tosses out sweets to fans between innings in Baum Stadium, led the first Hog Call of the 2005 baseball season minutes before the opening pitch.

"I spend more money on candy than I do season tickets," said Cochran, a 1979 Arkansas graduate.

The support was clearly aided because Arkansas has four players on its roster from Texas. They are Clint Arnold (Cedar Hill), Knox McCorquodale (Orange), James Gilbert (Katy) and Danny Hamblin (Rowlett).

" "It was good to come back home," Hamblin said. "I had a bunch of fans here from my grandmother, to my aunt and uncle and I even had relatives come down here from Nebraska to watch."

Remember Me?
Dallas Baptist third baseman Cody Montgomery is a former Razorbacks player. The junior from Boulder, Colo., transferred from Arkansas after spending one semester at Arkansas in the fall of 2002 and is now one of the Patriots' team captains.

Montgomery was third on the team last season with a .347 batting average, seven home runs and 40 RBIs while starting all 60 games.

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