Razorbacks Juniors Become Different Role Players

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas juniors Craig Gentry and John Henry Marquardt have been solid role players this season.

And their roles changed dramatically this week.

After senior center fielder Casey Rowlett and senior second baseman Scott Bridges were indefinitely suspended Tuesday for violations of a team policy, Gentry and Marquardt suddenly became starters.

Rowlett and Bridges definitely were the biggest offensive equations for the No. 9 Razorbacks, who play their next league series against No. 23 Auburn on the road beginning Friday.

Rowlett leads the Southeastern Conference with a .473 batting average after his 22-game hitting streak was ended during Sunday's 10-5 win against Mississippi State. Bridges is second on the team with a .410 batting average and leads the SEC with 22 stolen bases in 24 attempts.

"I'm really excited to get into the lineup everyday but I would never wish this one anybody," said Marquardt, who succeeds Bridges at second base. "Scotty B. was like a brother to me, him and Casey both. I'd give anything to have them back.

"I mean, we've just got to go on and keep winning and play hard every game."

Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn said he's got confidence Gentry and Marquardt will be equal to the task.

"The good thing is, it's not like they haven't played all year and we are just throwing them into it," Van Horn said. "Marquardt's played in a good amount of games, whether it's starting or coming in for defense or getting a big hit for us. So, he's got some experience.

"And Gentry, he's played well. We could see him getting better the last three or four weeks. We started playing him a lot more.

"You know, they do have some experience."

Marquardt, a transfer from New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs, has the most Division I experience.

He's played in 21 games --started 11 of them --and is hitting .389 with a team-leading 7 doubles and has 10 RBIs.

"He's a strong kid mentally and physically," said Razorbacks hitting coach Matt Deggs. "John Henry was a switch-hitter when he got here. We suggested to him that it would probably be better if he just hit left-handed and concentrate more on hitting left-handed.

"The guy's a competitor and you can't overlook that."

Gentry, a transfer from Arkansas-Fort Smith, has played in 13 games and started 11. He's hitting .364.

Gentry's best offensive game came March 23 in a 14-1 against Centenary on the road. In that game, Gentry went 5-for-5 with an RBI and scored two runs to become the first Arkansas player to collect five hits in one game in two years.

Marquardt, perhaps more recognized for his glove than his bat, has shown a lot of improvement at the plate.

"Me and coach Deggs did a lot of work this fall to get me in a comfortable spot," Marquardt said. "I hit well in junior college and this summer, I hit a streak where I wasn't hitting well.

"Me and coach Deggs worked it out. It helped me concentrate on one king of swing.

"I think it helped me." Marquardt, a natural shortstop, said he's really not picky about the position he plays.

"I've played third, shortstop and second this season," he said. "I'm more at home playing shortstop but I'll play second, anywhere.

"It doesn't matter."

Meanwhile Gentry, who's played right field this season, now is back to his natural position.

"I like playing center field," Gentry said. "That's the position I've played all my life. I'm really excited about it."

And excited about being more of a full-time starter -- for now -- in his home state.

"I mean, it's a great opportunity for me and I'm really excited to get in there," Gentry said. "I just want to help the team in any way possible. That's just the way it is.

"My whole life, I've wanted to play up here since I was a kid. I came up here for games with my dad. It was always my dream to play up here, come to school here and play in front of all these great Arkansas fans.

"It's still like a dream."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories