Arkansas Ready For Shockers Showdown

FAYETTEVILLE -- Since Brady Toops hit the most famous home run in Arkansas Razorbacks baseball history, there's been a little something extra special about seeing the name Wichita State pop up on the schedule.

Perhaps it was Toops' heroic grand slam in the NCAA Regional in 2004 which helped Arkansas rally past the Shockers.

Or maybe it was Wichita State coach Gene Stephenson's disapproval of the way Razorbacks pitcher Charley Boyce was 'overused' to help Arkansas advance.

Either way, when the Diamond Hogs and Shockers hit the field from opposite sides of the dugout -- as they'll do at 7:05 p.m today in Baum Stadium -- there's no question this is a battle worth watching.

Especially this year.

While Wichita State always seems to be one of the jewels of the Arkansas nonconference schedule, today's game is even more tantalizing. With the Shockers coming in ranked No. 10 by Baseball America and Arkansas ranked No. 7, this is much more than just another midweek tussle.

"It's going to be a great matchup, two top teams going at it," Arkansas senior Danny Hamblin said. "It's going to be more like a regional or super regional type of game. They're going to be ready and they need the win just as bad as we do. And for us to reach our goals we've got to win every game, even if it's a midweek game or on a weekend."

While the Razorbacks (32-11) are stopping short of calling Wichita State (34-9) a rival, they do admit the importance of treating the Shockers with the ultimate respect. With both teams vying for NCAA Regional bids -- and perhaps even national seeding -- a win today would look mighty good on the resume come tournament selection time.

"When you look back at the end of the season and look at the teams we've beaten outside the SEC and look at our solid wins, Wichita State could be one of them," Hamblin said. "So hopefully we can come out and get a win out of it."

The Razorbacks will send Dallas Keuchel (4-2, 5.56 ERA) to the mound today, while Wichita State counters with fellow left-hander Max Hutson (0-1, 3.21). Although both pitchers are now primarily used as relievers, that doesn't mean either team is taking this big matchup lightly.

"We're going to pitch guys certain amount of innings and get guys ready and hopefully we can get a win and then get ready for Auburn (this weekend)," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "This time of year, the SEC is what it's all about. "But don't get me wrong, we want to beat Wichita State just as bad as they want to beat us."


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