Boyce Ready For Regional Opener

AUSTIN, Texas -- Since no ball was available, Charley Boyce squeezed his left biceps with his right hand as he fielded questions about his start for Arkansas today against Miami (Ohio) in the NCAA Austin Regional.

Boyce, a fourth-year junior right-hander, was on edge with anticipation of his 44th career start. Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn announced Wednesday he'd go with Boyce instead of freshman Nick Schmidt, who started all 10 Southeastern Conference openers.

"We're not saving Schmidt," Van Horn said. "We're pitching Charley first because Charley gives us the best chance to bring a pitcher back who has some experience doing that. We've still got a chance to throw him Sunday if possible.

"Charley is the oldest and most experienced pitcher on staff. He's the guy that we need out there."

While Van Horn knows his starter, Miami (Ohio) coach Tracy Smith doesn't. The ninth-year RedHawks' coach did indicate it'll probably be either Keith Weiser (10-0, 2.61) or Graham Taylor (6-0, 1.54), two dangerous left-handers.

"We'll start Weiser if he's ready," Smith said. "Looking at the statistics and what Arkansas has done against lefties, their winning percentage against righties is much higher, so I'm pretty sure it's going to be a lefty on the hill."

Weiser would be the clear choice for the RedHawks (44-16) if he hadn't made two appearances in three days during last weekend's Mid-American Conference Tournament. He allowed three earned runs in eight innings to win the title game against Central Michigan on Sunday.

"He's a great pitcher," said senior catcher John Sloan, a four-year starter "He's a finesse lefty that spots the ball real well and he's easy to play behind.

"You know when he goes out there, you've only got to score a run here and there and you're going to be in the ball game."

After an inconsistent start, Boyce settled in and has been dominant for the Razorbacks (37-20) both out of the bullpen and as a starter. In 27 appearances, Boyce is 10-9 with a 3.35 ERA and has allowed only six earned runs in his last seven appearances (33 innings).

Since April 2, he has a 1.96 ERA with a 6-5 record and three saves.

"I think I've started getting into a rhythm," Boyce said. "They just kind of let me go out there and do my thing and the defense has played well behind me, so we've got a little momentum going on."

Defenses often play better behind a pitcher who consistently throws strikes. Boyce has walked just 14 batters in his last 18 appearances.

"Our confidence level rises, especially when a guy with experience is on the mound like that," said Hogs sophomore Danny Hamblin. "We just try to play good defense behind him because a few runs here and there is going to be enough with Charley on the mound."

Offensively, the RedHawks don't display much power, but manufacture runs by averaging nearly three stolen base attempts per game (104 for 150). Senior third baseman Brian Canada leads a team that hits .320 with a .395 batting average, five homers and 31 RBIs.

"I know (Arkansas) is a good team," Canada said. "Playing in the SEC, they're always going to be a good team, but I think we can compete with them and go out and give it our best shot."

Arkansas has lost five straight games and can't afford to look past the RedHawks, even though the winner plays the Texas-Quinnipiac winner at 6 p.m. Saturday. As the No. 2 seed here three years ago, the Razorbacks lost their regional opener when they were upset by No. 3 Lamar.

"(The Redhawks) are solid and you can just tell that they're not going to be intimidated," Van Horn said. "It's not like we're looking past anybody and they're not going to be coming in here thinking that 'Arkansas is looking past us.'

"Because we're fighting it right now and we're going to do everything we can to beat them."

The Razorbacks' attitudes seemed upbeat during Thursday's 75-minute practice.

"I think they're excited to be here and not ready to check it in," Van Horn said. "Sometimes, coaches can tell that they're ready to go home, but I don't feel that with this team.

"They're going to give it everything they have."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories