Experience Shows In Regional Opener

AUSTIN, Texas -- Miami (Ohio) fans looked like tourists with the number of them snapping photos before and during Arkansas' 9-5 win against the RedHawks in Friday's NCAA Austin Regional opener.

Miami third-base coach Joe Kruzel even let his enthusiasm show by stepping onto the field and shaking Hogs third baseman Clay Goodwin's hand seconds before the opening pitch.

Players, too, seemed caught up in the excitement at Disch-Falk Field as they fidgeted during the National Anthem.

"My first pitch, I think I was way out in front of the ball," said RedHawks first baseman Paul Frietch, who smashed a solo homer later in the at-bat. "But my nerves died down later on through the at-bat.

"We had some nerves there at first, but as the game wore on, we settled in and just started playing."

Some nervousness was warranted since the RedHawks hadn't played in a regional in four years.

"This is definitely a great experience for us," said RedHawks left fielder Ryan Robinson. "But we're in this to win some games and don't want to just be here just for the experience."

In contrast, the Razorbacks and their fans displayed a been-there-done-that attitude and were much the same -- as far as size and participation -- as the road crowds which followed the Hogs all season.

After all, they have been here (figuratively) and done this as they are making their fourth consecutive regional appearance. Last season, they raced through the home regional and super regional and into the College World Series.

"Yeah, we were relaxed," said Hogs freshman Clint Arnold. "We all looked to the older guys for leadership because they've experienced this and know what to expect.

"We just treated it like any other game, even though we knew it wasn't."

Gentry Watch
The dozen or so professional scouts in the stands kept a close eye on Hogs junior center fielder Craig Gentry, who's expected to be picked in Tuesday's Major League Amateur Draft.

"He's raw, but his speed and arm strength make him a nice prospect," said a scout from a National League team who requested anonymity.

After he made a running, over-the-shoulder catch at the warning track and after he used his speed to stretch a routine single into a double in the first inning, the scouts seated behind home plate began scribbling feverishly on note pads.

"He basically just outran that ball," said Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn. "I guess you can do that when you run a 6.4 (seconds) in the 60 (-yard dash)."

Gentry, a 6-foot-2, 180-pounder, is batting .319 with 10 doubles and 16 stolen bases. He transferred to Arkansas from UA-Fort Smith in the fall after prepping at Fort Smith Christian.

Arnold The Pig
Arnold turned in the best performance of any Texan on Arkansas' roster by going 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored.

"I can't say I like the humidity, but I like playing here," said Arnold, who hails from Grand Prairie, but attended high school at nearby Cedar Hill. "I feel comfortable playing in Texas, I guess, because I'm from here. I also played pretty well (during an early season series) down in Arlington.

"And I guess it doesn't hurt to have a lot of people I know watching me, either."

Another Razorback from Texas (Rowlett), Danny Hamblin, also had a solid homecoming by going 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run. James Gilbert (Katy) retired all three batters he faced in Friday's final inning while Knox McCorquodale (Orange) did not play.

Oh, Canada
With a full count and two outs in the eighth, Hogs starter Charley Boyce ran a fastball in and on the hands (literally) of RedHawks' right-handed batter Brian Canada, who was hit in the wrist as he swung and missed.

Players stayed on the field until Van Horn walked out and said something to home plate umpire Scott Graham, who promptly held up his right hand to signal an out.

The ruling is that the ball is dead as soon as the ball comes in contact with the batter. In this case, since Canada swung before being hit, it was considered a strikeout and the inning was over. Apparently, the ball hit the bat after it skipped off Canada's wrist.

"In all my years of baseball, I've never seen that called before," said RedHawks coach Tracy Smith.

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