Hogs Return To Rocky Top

FAYETTEVILLE -- Remember the last time Arkansas was swept in a Southeastern Conference series?

Clay Goodwin sure does. Simply mention the Razorbacks' trip to Tennessee two years ago and the seniors' seriousness comes full bore.

"Yeah, I remember ... How could I forget it?" Goodwin said. "We lost two close games (in extra innings) and ended up getting swept. It was a tough, tough trip.

"One of the toughest I remember since I've been here."

Citing revenge as a factor, Goodwin can't wait for today's return to Nelson Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn., where this weekend's three-game series against the Vols begins at 6 p.m.

"The guys that have been around, we're really looking forward to this," Goodwin said. "We haven't won there, so we've been ready for this trip for quite a while."

By Sunday, Arkansas will have completed a grueling 13 games in 17 days, the busiest stretch of this year's schedule. The No. 10 Razorbacks (29-6 overall, 7-5 is Southeastern Conference play) have reeled off eight straight after losing a pair at Auburn to open the month.

"We really went through a stretch for two weeks now where we've played a lot of baseball," said Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn. "It starts to slow down a little bit after this."

This weekend's rotation against No. 25 Tennessee (23-9, 7-4) looks much the same as it did during last weekend's home sweep against Vanderbilt as the only certainty is left-hander Nick Schimdt's start today.

After Schmidt, who recently was named a midseason Freshman All-American by Baseball America, the Hogs' wild card has been junior right-hander Charley Boyce, who started 41 career games before moving to the bullpen two weeks ago.

Since the switch, Boyce hasn't allowed an earned run in 14 1/3 innings. If he doesn't pitch today, he may start either Saturday or Sunday or be used in relief either game. Other possible starters are Devin Collis, James Gilbert, Shaun Seibert, but again, nothing is certain.

"Hopefully, (Schmidt) can give us three or four (innings) and we'll go from there," Van Horn said. "I really hope our (pitchers) go out and have good outings this weekend and we can maybe get a little more settled in by next weekend."

Two-thirds of the Volunteers' weekend rotation has been solidified for some time, but they've been mixing it up on Sunday. They start today with junior right-hander Luke Hochever (8-1, 1.52), a preseason and midseason first-team All-American by Baseball America. Saturday's starter is 6-foot-5 left-hander James Adkins (5-1, 2.02), a midseason Freshman All-American by Baseball America.

"Tennessee, top to bottom, they've got a good club," Van Horn said. "They've got one of the best pitchers (Hochever) in the league, if not the best, as far as an older pitcher. He's probably going to be a first-round draft choice."

Hochever leads the league with 75 strikeouts in 65 innings because of his ability to locate four pitches: a 94-mph fastball, a hard-breaking slider, a tumbling curve ball and an improving sinker.

Arkansas won two of three games against the Vols in Fayetteville last season, including a 5-3 victory in Hochever's Sunday start thanks to Stephen Robison's controversial, two-run homer in the sixth that twisted around the left-field foul pole.

With eight players hitting above .300, the Vols lead the SEC with a .337 batting average. Arkansas is second with .325. Both teams will run as the Hogs lead the league with 82 stolen bases and Tennessee is second with 59.

Arkansas is second in the SEC Western Division while Tennessee is second in the East.

"They've been winning a lot of series and sweeping a couple here and there," Van Horn said. "They're one of the top teams in their division. I think it'll be a real good series."

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