Diamond Hogs Need Midweek Tune-Up

FAYETTEVILLE -- Not downplaying the importance of winning midweek games, Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn wants to see certain individuals elevate their play when the Hogs host Northern Colorado for a two-game set beginning at 7:05 p.m. today in Baum Stadium.

Of course, Van Horn plans to win, but getting a couple of pitchers in a rhythm or batters in a groove for this weekend's Southeastern Conference series at Mississippi State is the main objective against the Bears (13-21).

The No. 12 Razorbacks (27-10) lead MSU by a half-game and trail Western Division leader Alabama by two games at the midway point of SEC play.

"We've got to get some guys going, whether it's on the mound or hitting," Van Horn said. "If one of our hitters or a couple of them who are struggling come out and have a good game, that confidence carries over to the weekend and maybe continues the rest of the year, which is one of the reasons we play (midweek games).

"I want a few guys to snap out of it and get hot. We need some guys to get rolling for this weekend."

Van Horn has been pleased with the players at top of the batting order like Craig Gentry, Chris Hollensworth, Danny Hamblin and Jake Dugger, but it's the guys who have been inconsistent like Blake Parker and Brian Walker he'd like to see "snap out of it."

Parker is batting .257 with five homers and 19 RBIs, while Walker, who has fought through some injuries, has a .214 average with two homers and 18 RBIs. In SEC games, Parker is batting .212 while Walker is batting .170.

"It would be nice to get Parker and Walker going," Van Horn said. "I feel like those guys are going to have a bust out weekend at any time and will help carry us a little bit.

"We need those guys to drive in some runs, so hopefully, they'll have a couple of good ball games."

Arkansas has lost its last two midweek games, both against Missouri State. For that reason, Van Horn said his team does need to focus on winning as much as improving individually, especially with only four nonconference games remaining.

"We need to win three or four of these games," Van Horn said. "It doesn't count in the SEC standings and that's the main thing. But if you look at the long range goal and that's having a chance to host a regional, (players) know we need to win."

Northern Colorado comes to town for the second straight year. Bears fourth-year coach Kevin Smallcomb was a graduate assistant at Arkansas from 1989-90.

"He likes coming back to Fayetteville and being around the area a little bit," Van Horn said. "I've known Kevin for a while just off and on, but through his program more than anything. We've got them scheduled (to return to Fayetteville) again next year."

Last season, Northern Colorado was swept in two games against the Razorbacks, but ended up winning the Division I Independent Invitational Championship. The Bears have struggled this season with the most impressive victory coming in a 5-2 win against then-No. 2 Nebraska on March 28.

As with most independents, only six of the Bears' 34 games have been at home in Greeley, Colo. They've had 10 or more hits in eight of their last 10 games. Their top batters are Adam Symons (.330 bating average, 21 RBIs), Kevin Sandberg (.330, 18) and Seth Tartler (.326, 18).

Northern Colorado is expected to start senior left-hander Evan Linn (1-1, 4.96) today while Arkansas' starting pitcher has yet to be determined although right-hander Daryl Maday (0-0, 3.75) is the leading candidate for today's start.

"We're going to throw eight or nine guys in the two games," Van Horn said. "The starter might go three, maybe four innings and then bring in some guys for a couple of innings each.

"That's the way we're looking at it. Try to get some guys some work and try to win the game."

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