Hogs, Gents Aim To Refocus

SHREVEPORT, La. -- Intensity likely will be a key as Arkansas tries to refocus against Centenary here today after winning two of three games at then-No. 4 South Carolina in the Southeastern Conference-opening series over the weekend.

"The biggest challenge is amongst ourselves mentally," said Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn. "We have to come out focused. Sure, you could get all happy and pat yourself on the back, but Centenary wants to beat us and they want to beat us bad."

Six 1967, only four Arkansas teams (1982, 1995, 1997 and 2003) won 18 of their first 20 games, and since winning this weekend's series, the Razorbacks climbed from No. 15 to No. 8 in the rankings.

"We don't know what's going to happen this year," said Van Horn, who played third base on the '82 team. "But right now, we're playing with a lot of confidence."

Another hurdle the Hogs must clear will be finding enough fresh arms to pitch 18 innings over the next two days. Right-hander Josh Smith (0-0, 2.63) will make his third start today.

"We don't have a lot of pitching left, so we'll have to mix and match some," Van Horn said. "That's the biggest thing. And I think we'll play a lot of younger guys in the field. I hope that the intensity will be good when these guys that haven't played all weekend are in the lineup.

"Maybe they can bring something extra to the game."

Strangely enough, getting up for today's game in Shehee Stadium could be a problem for the Gents, too. They're 8-11 after dropping a heartbreaking 9-8 loss against Connecticut here Sunday. An final-inning error -- one of six for the Gents -- helped the Huskies push the winning run across the plate.

Centenary split a doubleheader against Connecticut on Saturday, so a win Sunday would've given the Gents a series against the team with the best record in the Big East.

"It was a very tough loss, so we need to regroup fast," said Centenary assistant Cory Burton, who spoke for Ed McCann, the Gents' head coach who was unavailable Monday. "We're not worried about whether we win or not against Arkansas. We just want to compete because playing well against a team like Arkansas would do a lot for us."

Centenary go with a pair of left-handers from Texas against the Hogs with Matt Clark (1-0, 5.40) starting today and Chad Harper (0-1, 6.64) getting the nod for Wednesday afternoon's game.

"They've been inconsistent so far," Burton said. "They're still working on command of more than one pitch and need to get their off-speed stuff over for strikes."

The rest of the Gents have been just as inconsistent. They beat LSU 6-1 on March 2, but have lost four of their last six games against teams like Arkansas-Little Rock and Louisiana-Monroe.

"We're down to 21 players because of injuries, so we're kind of having to piece it together," Burton said. "On Sunday, we didn't have anybody left on the bench, so we had to use a pitcher who has been injured to pinch run for us.

"It's going to be tough (today), but we're just looking for some intensity from our guys."

So is Arkansas.

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