Toops, There He Is

MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. — He is the owner of the most famous hit in Arkansas Razorbacks baseball history. Remember?

"Brady Toops just hit a grand slam home run!" screamed Arkansas play-by-play man Chuck Barrett back on that fateful June 6, 2004 day. The setting was Fayetteville's Baum Stadium, during the NCAA Regionals and Toops was without question the man of the hour. With his four-run blast sending shockwaves through Baum — and helping the Razorbacks rally past Wichita State to advance to the NCAA Super Regional against Florida State — Toops was in hog heaven that day. Sunday, Toops was back. No, not back delivering game-saving grand slams, but back on the scene to watch his former team as they did battle in the Dairy Queen Classic. A native of New London, Minn. — a town located 100 miles west of Minneapolis — Toops was in town visiting family the past couple of weeks when his father convinced him to stay a little longer than first planned so he could watch the Diamond Hogs. Toops happily agreed. "I had been visiting up here for a couple of weeks," Toops said. "I actually came back to see my sister compete in the state gymnastics meet and my dad called me up and said why don't you stick around an extra week to see Arkansas." After hitting his memorable dinger, Toops was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals. But last May, the Cardinals released Toops. Today, the former Razorbacks hero has traded in baseball cleats for youth ministry, working for an organization based in Kansas City. Still, he enjoyed seeing former teammates Jake Dugger, Danny Hamblin and James Gilbert, among other former coaches and friends associated with the Razorbacks. And what does Toops think of this year's Arkansas team? Does it have what it takes to repeat his heroics of 2004 and return to the College World Series? "I know this, they have a lot of talent," Toops said. "But I'll tell you one thing I know, if they're going to do what we did in 2004, it's going to take chemistry. "That team was like a family." Hamblin Stays In Lineup Apparently Dave Van Horn had a last-minute change of heart regarding senior first basemen Danny Hamblin. While mulling things over Saturday, Van Horn suggested Hamblin would soon be seeing his time as a starter coming to an end. But when the lineup cards were turned in for Sunday's first game, there was Hamblin's name, at first base as usual. "We gave him a shot and he came through with a couple of hits," Van Horn said. "And he's a good defensive player at first base and we need his glove. "We had an idea he was coming around. He was still getting under the ball and hitting some pop-ups, but he's coming out of it." Hamblin was riding a season-long 5-for-42 slump coming into Sunday's doubleheader before going 2 of 5 in the first game, with a bunt single in his first at-bat and a sharp single to left in his third at-bat. In the second game, Hamblin did finish just 0-for-4, but — like Van Horn said — he did make better contact at the plate after striking out in all four AB's Friday. Coon Leads The Pack Casey Coon is the leader of the pack as far as runs batted in are concerned in the Southeastern Conference. With four more RBIs Sunday, Coon — a junior college transfer from Southern Nevada Community College — now has 26 runs batted in this season in just 15 games. The total keeps Coon slightly ahead of Auburn's Josh Donaldson, who now has 23 RBIs. All-Tourney Team Schmidt, Coon and outfielder Jake Dugger were named to Dairy Queen Classic all-tournament team. Schmidt joined Ole Miss' Lance Lynn as the only two pitchers selected to the team, while Dugger was joined in the all-tournament outfield by Mike Mee and Matt Nohelty, both of Minnesota. Coon was selected as the all-tourney third-basemen, despite committing two costly errors at third base in the 10-5 loss Sunday. "We feel really disappointed in the way we played (in the last game) and I personally, I'm really disappointed because my errors really gave up two runs," Coon said. "That's unacceptable to me and I'm really frustrated in the way I played right now. "I hit the ball all right, but I've got to play better defense to help the team." Apparently, coach Dave Van Horn agrees. When asked if Coon might be better suited as a middle infielder following his rough day at third base, Van Horn suggested his hot-hitting transfer might be a better fit as a nonfielder altogether. "Casey is not a middle infielder," Van Horn said. "He's a designated hitter, maybe an outfielder and maybe a first basemen, we'll see. But Casey is definitely not a middle guy." Up Next... Arkansas returns to Baum Stadium for the three game series against the Kansas Jayhawks this weekend. The Hogs and ‘Hawks will play at 12:35 p.m. Friday, 12:05 p.m. Saturday and will wrap the series up with a 1:05 p.m. matchup on Sunday.

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