Diamond Hogs Get Final Tune Up

FAYETTEVILLE -- Expect Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn to pinch hit, pinch run and switch starting lineups more than usual against Eastern Illinois this weekend.

It's the last chance coaches have to challenge players who may be on the bubble before the No. 18 Razorbacks (13-1) open Southeastern Conference play in a week at No. 5 South Carolina.

"There are some guys trying to make some moves as far as playing time or starting on the mound before we head down to South Carolina, "Van Horn said. "I'm going to mix it up again just to get some guys in there that deserve to play. These guys are going to be good players here so we need to get them some confidence."

A few of the guys Van Horn is referring to are outfielders Stephen Robison, Chris Hollensworth and Craig Gentry and infielders John Marquardt, Brock Bond and Ben Tschepikow. All will likely see action during the three-game series, which begins at 3:05 p.m. today.

"We've got some guys that all bring something to the table," Van Horn said. "We don't lose much when we trade out there because they're all pretty good."

Eastern Illinois (1-6) is in the middle of one of the toughest 10-game opening schedules in the country. The Panthers lost three games at Oklahoma and two at Mississippi State before splitting a home doubleheader last weekend against Olivet Nazarene.

After playing the Razorbacks, the Panthers stay in the Natural State for games at Arkansas-Little Rock and Arkansas State.

"They play an incredible schedule," Van Horn said. "What I know about them is they're not scared to play people. Other than that, we're just going on statistics. They're just a team that's probably going to be a lot like Illinois-Chicago."

Senior right-handed pitcher Kyle Widegren (0-2, 9.82) will start for Eastern Illinois today against left-hander Nick Schimdt (2-0, 2.79), a freshman who may have already solidified himself in Arkansas' weekend rotation.

Opponents are hitting .222 against Schmidt in a team-high 19.1 innings. He allowed just one hit in six innings in his last outing, a 7-4 win against Illinois-Chicago last Friday.

"I haven't seen Nick Schimdt be intimidated yet," Van Horn said. "He's pretty calm and cool out there and he gets mad at himself is anything."

Junior right-hander Charley Boyce starts Saturday for the Hogs and Van Horn will give freshman Shaun Seibert, a crafty right-hander, his first start on Sunday. In four relief appearances, Seibert leads the team with a 1.88 ERA and a .157 opponent batting average in 14.1 innings.

Van Horn outlined specifically what he wants to see from his pitching staff this weekend and into SEC play.

"Give us six innings," Van Horn said. "I think we need to get six innings out of these guys this weekend and be able to go a couple with a middle guy and then finish with somebody. One of the three games, just go with two pitchers."

The offense has been consistent, but the defense, billed to be Arkansas' strength, committed 11 errors in the last four games. Defense is the one thing Van Horn said needs to improve the most before heading to South Carolina.

"We played great defense for the first seven or eight games and we were solid," Van Horn said. "We just need to turn that around a little bit. That's the main thing."

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