Hogs Need Strong Start At Vanderbilt

FAYETTEVILLE -- Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said it makes no difference how Arkansas aligns its starting pitchers in this weekend's series.

The No. 12 Razorbacks (23-7, 4-5 Southeastern Conference) announced this week they will start fifth-year senior Charley Boyce today, instead of Friday regular Nick Schmidt, against Commodores ace left-hander David Price. Schmidt starts Saturday and Trey Holloway remains the starter on Sunday.

"I really don't care what they do," Corbin said. "You're going to see those three pitchers anyway. Boyce is a proven guy. He's pitched in the College World Series, so he's good. It doesn't really matter."

Apparently, it matters to Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn, who pointed out that Boyce has historically gotten "hot" in April. He also doesn't want to waste another superb outing by Schmidt only to get beat 1-0.

Mentally, the switch should help the hitters heading into Friday's game knowing they have to put up more runs than usual since Schmidt won't be on the mound shutting down the No. 16 Commodores (20-9, 7-2).

"Sometimes, it does affect you that way," Van Horn said. "I really feel like we have to go down there and pound the baseball (today) and I think we're capable of doing that against a great pitcher. He has a lot of experience and he's been beaten a couple of times, but he's just been on a roll here lately.

"So we're hoping we'll go down there and Charley will pitch his best game of the year."

Arkansas is 9-1 against left-handed starters this season, but has yet to see one as dominant as Price. The closest was Tennessee's James Adkins, who no-hit the Hogs for 5 2/3 innings before giving up a couple of late homers in a 6-1 loss a week ago.

The Razorbacks took advantage of a couple of early mistakes to beat Price 3-0 during a three-game sweep of Vanderbilt last season. This season, Price (4-2, 1.78) has been strong since losing his first two decisions. He's the reigning SEC Pitcher of the Week after striking out 13 in eight innings of a 6-0 win against Florida a week ago and has not allowed a run in his last 19 1/3 innings.

"(Price) is a lot better than Adkins velocity-wise," Van Horn said. "He's more of a power pitcher who's got a lot of movement on his fastball. He'll cut that fastball and it'll run hard into the right-handers.

"He's a big, athletic kid who was the ace of the staff for Team USA over the summer, so he's got a lot of experience."

Most of Boyce's starting experience on Fridays came as a redshirt freshman, when he posted a 6-5 record and 3.48 ERA. He moved to Saturdays as a sophomore and was 10-3 with a 3.20 ERA and then last season, he split time as a starter and reliever while serving as a utility pitcher of sorts.

Boyce (2-1, 5.45) said the move won't change his approach much as he still has to "throw your best."

"Going into a Friday, you're relying more on your stuff than what they do because you haven't been able to sit and watch them a couple of times through the lineup," Boyce said. "It can be positive because you won't give them as much credit and you just go out there and throw your ball game.

"You're going in flying blind more, which can be a good thing."

Corbin won't be flying blind. He scouts teams as well as any coach in the SEC and is fully aware of what Boyce and the rest of the Razorbacks like Craig Gentry, Jake Dugger and Danny Hamblin bring to the table.

"I think with any of Dave's teams and going back to when he was at Nebraska, they're a fun team to play because they pressure you and they come after you and play hard," Corbin said. "They run and they're very athletic and can do a lot of good things offensively and they can pitch pretty solid, too.

"You know that you're going to be in for a pretty good fist fight when you play them."

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