Hogs Looking To Snap Mid-Week Blues

FAYETTEVILLE -- In Division I college baseball, mid-week games are usually treated as little more than tuneups to weekend conference games.

For Arkansas, though, a recent nonconference slide has given the Razorbacks' final two games outside the Southeastern Conference a bit of an added importance.

While the Razorbacks have gone 8-4 in SEC play --winning all four series --since March 31, they have gone just 1-3 in nonconference games in that same span.

"I don't know, to tell you the truth," said Arkansas outfielder Jake Dugger. "We hit the (heck) out of the ball on weekends, and then we don't hit real well (in) mid-week games.

"Baseball's a funny game. I can't tell you exactly what the reason is, because sometimes you hit well, sometimes you don't."

Tonight, the No. 11 Razorbacks (30-12) will try to reverse the trend when they host Oral Roberts (22-13) at 7:05 p.m. at Baum Stadium. It will be Arkansas' final nonconference home game of the season.

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said this Golden Eagles team is more well-rounded than the Oral Roberts teams the Razorbacks have gone 5-1 against since he took over.

"They've always pitched well," Van Horn said. "But they're swinging the bat better. They're scoring a lot of runs."

ORU's lineup is keyed by Brenden Duffy, who's hitting a team-high .341 and has scored 42 runs.

Charley Boyce will get the start for the Razorbacks, his first since April 7 at Vanderbilt, when he went just one inning.

"We really want Charley to have a good outing, for himself personally and naturally for the team," Van Horn said. "But we need him. I think he really wants to pitch."

Van Horn said Boyce has handled his removal from the weekend rotation well.

"He understands," Van Horn said. "I think if he was throwing better and wasn't getting to pitch, it'd be an issue, but he understands we've got to go with the guys that are getting it done and I think he's going to be one of them before it's over with."

Boyce will be on a pitch count, so that he will still be available for this weekend's series at LSU, Van Horn said.

Oral Roberts will use a pitching-by-committee approach, starting either Chance Chapman or Erik Crichton. Chapman threw seven shutout innings in ORU's 7-1 win over Wichita State on April 12.

Tonight's lineup could look significantly different from the one Arkansas used last week when it hosted Northern Colorado for two games.

James Ewing will likely make his return to the starting lineup tonight. Ewing hasn't started since March 19 in Florida.

After sitting out more than a month, he returned late in Sunday's series finale at Mississippi State but still has not played the field.

"I'd like to start him, let him play out there for awhile and see how it goes," Van Horn said. "I'd say he'll play half a game, minimum. He tells me moving left and right doesn't hurt him at all, maybe straight sprints he can feel it a little bit."

Ewing's return couldn't come at a better time for the Razorbacks, who had plenty of players down with various ailments last weekend.

Craig Gentry will miss his fourth consecutive game tonight after coming down with a knee infection over the weekend.

Van Horn said it's still unclear how serious the infection is.

"If they've caught it in time or if it's a certain type of infection, it can heal up pretty quick," he said. "But I was also told on the other hand that it could be a situation where it's hard to get to it and control it and he might miss a lot of games -- if not all of them.

"I've been told one extreme or the other, and we might not know for awhile."

Logan Forsythe and Chris Hollensworth also could be out tonight after missing action in Starkville.

Forsythe, who has been Ewing's primary fill-in at second, and Hollensworth both have been battling food poisoning after eating together last week at a local restaurant. Wayne Hrozek also ate with the pair, and Van Horn said the freshman was feeling nauseated as well but he was able to play in Starkville.

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