Schmidt Ready To Strut Stuff

FAYETTEVILLE -- If the Arkansas Razorbacks plan on living up to those super-high expectations this 2007 baseball season, everyone knows the one man who must deliver the most.

You guessed it -- Nick Schmidt.

While the Diamond Hogs are getting plenty of love from those preseason polls -- being ranked as high as No. 4 by Collegiate Baseball -- the team's praise is nothing compared to what Schmidt has received. Named first-team preseason all-American by almost every college baseball publication, Schmidt is definitely the horse leading Arkansas into battle.

Today, Schmidt gets his first crack at proving everyone he's up to the task when he leads the Razorbacks in their season opener at Louisiana Tech.

First pitch at J.C. Love Field in Ruston, La., is set for 6 p.m.

"Everybody is upbeat," Schmidt said. "Practices are awesome and everybody is ready to play."

Maybe so, but is Schmidt ready to handle the load being thrown his way in 2007? After two solid seasons in 2005 and '06, Schmidt is chasing several records at Arkansas while also chasing down a possible high-round pick in this summer's Major League Baseball First-Year Players Draft.

For the big and tall southpaw from St. Louis, though, the pressure must stay on the backburner this year.

"I can't put any more pressure on myself because that makes it harder for me to go out and perform," Schmidt said. "You've just to go out and do your job and know what you can do."

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn knows exactly what Schmidt can do. Using the now-junior as his Friday-night starter for most Southeastern Conference series in both of the last two years, Van Horn is confident in what Schmidt brings to the table.

Most notably, wins.

"Anytime you have a guy you can run out there on Friday, who's been through what he's been through," Van Horn said. "You know two years in a row pitching on Fridays, playing for Team USA and having great success there and being projected where he's projected to be drafted, even though I don't want to talk about that a whole lot and put any more undo pressure on him, but what it does for the team is it just boosts your confidence. You come out on the field on Friday with a smile on your face knowing you've got a chance to win.

"And that's what we want to have on Saturday with Shaun (Seibert) and on Sunday with whoever we decide to go with there."

Schmidt is scheduled to face Louisiana Tech sophomore Luke Burnett on the mound today. Burnett brings a 4-6 record from a year ago, while the Bulldogs -- coming off their best record since 1989 -- are led as a team by preseason Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year Jericho Jones.

For Schmidt and the other Razorbacks, however, it's more about

them this weekend, and starting what they eventually plan to finish.

"We try not to look at the rankings and that stuff, even though you're going to see it," Schmidt said. "You try to keep your mind on your own goals and not worry about what those other people think.

"That's what we're going to do."


Arkansas at Louisiana Tech

WHEN: 6 p.m., today

WHERE: J.C. Love Field, Ruston, La.

RECORDS: Arkansas 0-0, 0-0; Louisiana Tech 0-0, 0-0

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