Ben Tschepikow, a 5-foot-11, 194-pound junior second baseman is back, with the emphasis being on the word back.
A year ago, a ruptured disc almost ruptured his college baseball career at Arkansas.
In 2006, Tschepikow, a graduate of Fayetteville High, played in only 14 games — he started 11 — because of chronic back problems which eventually led to surgery when he hit only .167 in 36 painful at-bats.
"It was just real frustrating," Tschepikow said. "It made me upset as a person. I didn't know if I'd ever play baseball again.
"I was lucky I had a good surgery and it was successful."
This season, Tschepikow again has showed an authentic desire to prove his worth as a player, not only to himself but his coaches and teammates.
It seems that mission has been accomplished. Tschepikow has started 19 of 23 games he's played. He's hitting .333 with 1 home run, 5 doubles and 19 RBIs.
He, too, is hitting .467 with men in scoring position.
Those numbers could benefit Tschepikow and the No. 7 Razorbacks when they open a three-game Southeastern Conference series at Tennessee at 6 p.m. today.
"I'm just out here playing every day and having fun and just not taking it for granted," Tschepikow said. "I've never been the type to just lay down easily and quit when something hurts.
"I just couldn't play any more last year. It was just busting myself down the road.
"I couldn't help it."
Now that he is back, teammates appreciate him even more.
"You know, I got a chance to play with him his first year here," Razorbacks senior first baseman Danny Hamblin said. "As soon as I saw him, I knew he was a player. It's good to have him on my right side. He turns one of the best double plays I've seen.
"He's an all-around great athlete."
That's the way Arkansas sophomore third baseman Logan Forsythe sees it, too.
"He comes out every day," Forsythe said. "You can't say enough about him. He works his butt off. You know, the mentality he's playing with is, he had the game taken away.
"You sit out a year and that grows on you. He's made a great comeback.
"That's good, because we need him."
No. 7 Arkansas at Tennessee
WHEN: 6 p.m., today
WHERE: Lindsey Nelson Stadium, Knoxville, Tenn.
RECORDS: Arkansas (19-8, 4-2 in Southeastern Conference); Tennessee (17-9, 4-2)
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