Heat, SEC Hot Topics At Regional

AUSTIN, Texas -- Arkansas players exited Disch-Falk Field with their red jerseys soaked in sweat after Thursday's 75-minute practice in preparation for today's game against Miami (Ohio) in the NCAA Austin Regional, which starts at noon.

The temperature on the scoreboard read: 89 degrees, but the AstroTurf surface on Disch-Falk Field made conditions much hotter. Fortunately, Hogs coach Dave Van Horn had been working his team out during the middle of the day since classes ended three weeks ago.

"It's going to be 90 degrees (today) and around 110 on the turf, so you've got to be mentally tough," Van Horn said. "It's going to get to you, so you've got to be in shape and not let it bother you.

"Hopefully, our guys can handle it."

The heat was especially taxing on the two schools from the north in the regional in Miami (Ohio) and Quinnipiac, which is located in Hamden, Conn.

Players from Quinnipiac, which begins its first regional ever against Texas at 6 p.m. today, spent the last four days guzzling water to prepare for the conditions. Bobcats coach Dan Gooley even joked that the only way to level the playing field for tonight's game is if it snowed.

"We might not get a lot of heat up there in Connecticut, but there's been some games where it's been pretty hot," said Quinnipiac pitcher Pat Egan. "We went down to Florida and it was about 90 degrees, so we should be fine."

Big 12 vs. SEC
As usual, the SEC led all conference with nine teams selected to play in the 64-team NCAA Tournament field. The Big 12 has five.

While some wonder why the SEC gets so much respect, Texas coach Augie Garrido said it's warranted. After all, four of the nine SEC teams selected reached the College World Series a year ago.

"The SEC has been a dominating conference in baseball for a lot of years," said Garrido, whose team did not earn one of the top eight national seeds despite its third-place Big 12 finish. "It's been successful in developing an RPI that really perpetuates itself ... Because of who they play outside the conference and because of who they play within their conference.

"And they've done well in the postseason."

Van Horn said he'd like to have seen 10 SEC teams get in and tried to explain why Vanderbilt -- which finished SEC play with the same 13-17 record as Arkansas -- should have made it but didn't.

"I feel bad for them," Van Horn said. "I think Vanderbilt's got a No. 1 or 2 power ranking -- strength of schedule -- in the country. If you would have went on RPI alone, we'd have got them all in.

"We beat each other up and by the end of the season, you're drained. We've even talked as coaches about doing away with our tournament because we don't feel like it's doing anybody any good except making you tired."

Land Mine
After a solid outing in a Tuesday scrimmage, Hogs freshman pitcher Shaun Seibert will be available as a starter or reliever during the regional.

However, the Hogs lost another pitcher, freshman Lee Land, when he injured his right (throwing) arm while warming up Tuesday.

"It's good to have (Seibert) back, but on the other hand, Lee Land hurt his arm," Van Horn said. "He's a year out of Tommy John (surgery), so we were a little nervous. But he got an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging scan) and it was negative, but I don't think he'll be available.

"So we gain one and we lose one and that's kind of what's been going on with us all year."

Going Deep
One aspect that could play an even bigger factor than the heat is the size of Disch-Falk Field. The dimensions are 340-feet to left, 325 to right and 400 to straight away center and it plays even larger on the fast turf.

Arkansas has not homered in the past six games. The last long ball hit came off Scott Hode's bat in a 5-2 loss against Alabama on May 14.

"We don't hit a lot of home runs," Van Horn said. "We've hit 50 home runs, but we haven't hit very many lately. Two months ago I would have said this would be the best place you could send us, if we weren't playing at home, because we had so much speed. Now, we still have pretty good speed, but it's not great.

"But this is a good ballpark for us. We've got outfielders that can run a little bit and catch it and we've got a few guys that can beat out some three or four hoppers if they chop them into the holes.

"We hope it helps us."

Looking Ahead
Should Arkansas and Texas win today, they'll meet Saturday at 6 p.m. in the winner's bracket. Texas leads the all-time series 52-26 with the last meeting coming in last year's College World Series, which the Longhorns won 13-2.

Prior to that, the teams hadn't met since their Southwest Conference series in 1991.

"Any time that Arkansas and Texas play, it's going to bring out a little bit of the old rivalry," Van Horn said. "There's just a lot of fans that are my age (44) and up that were Southwest Conference people and that was the rivalry. That was the game we circled every year in football, basketball and baseball.

"I guess now it's Texas and Texas A&M. For Arkansas, I'm really not sure who our rival is to be honest with you.

"But it's always fun for the fans when Arkansas and Texas hook up in any sport."

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