State of the Hogs: Big Little Man
There were probably 9,508 at Baum Stadium on Saturday ready to cheer the big man from Friday night, little man Wayne Hrozek. He didn't see the field.
Before anyone second guesses Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn for not playing Hrozek, there was good reason to hold out the man who blasted in the last two runs in the 4-3 victory over Ole Miss that clinched the SEC West.
Hrozek spent most of Saturday taking treatment for a bum shoulder, courtesy of a batting practice accident before Friday night's game.
"I ran into the fence in BP," Hrozek said. "Hit it pretty good. They said it was a separation. I've done it before. I've had it pop out twice before. It's an old football injury.
"It wasn't bothering me so much last night, but I knew it would be really sore today."
Hrozek's double to the base of the wall was to straightaway right field. He drove in the Hogs' last two runs in the bottom of the 10th. He sliced a liner that just got over the reach of a running Ole Miss outfielder.
"I burned him," Hrozek said. "I knew it was over him about two steps past first base. That was fun. I knew I burned him."
It's not as if Van Horn wasn't impressed by Hrozek's heroics from Friday night. He wanted to put him in the starting lineup, although Van Horn says his past performances suggest he's not as good against lefties as he is against right-handers.
"He's a right-handed batter, but he does well against right-handers," Van Horn said. "We probably are going to put him (in the lineup) against right-handers now. First, we need to get him healthy. He was hurting today."
Hrozek thinks he'll be fine by the time the Hogs face Alabama at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the SEC Tournament.
"I'll get treatment every day," he said. "I'll be fine."
Hrozek said he's used to playing with a sore shoulder. At 5-9, 181, is the smallest man on the UA baseball team and he's no stranger to pain. The sophomore from The Woodlands, Texas played with a bum shoulder as a high school safety in football.
"I told them yesterday when I did it that I knew it was going to hurt today more than it did last night," he said. "That's because I've had it before. It hurt today all right. It did."
Some suggested Hrozek rested because of the celebration after the victory Friday night. Hrozek admitted he was late getting home, but only because of his usual post-game meal was delayed by the extra-inning affair and the post-game fireworks display.
"We got home about 1 a.m., but we didn't do anything other than go get a burger at IHOP," he said. "It wasn't anything special, just a normal burger."
It was the first game-winning hit for Hrozek since a walk-off homer as a 15-year-old. Teammates mobbed him afterwards in the celebration. There was also a "shaving cream pie" slammed in his face from manager Justin White during a TV interview.
"Justin is a good friend and that was fun," Hrozek said. "But I owe him. I am trying to think of something to get him back."
Van Horn probably owes Hrozek a start or two after his clutch hit on Friday.
"I want him healthy because he brings a threat in our lineup," Van Horn said. "If he's ready to go, he's in there. I hope to settle in with a lineup now and go with it for awhile. We've played a few guys in right field and we need to get him out there.
"Wayne has a good flat swing," Van Horn said. "He's very strong for his size. He's a good outfielder. He's got a good college arm, maybe better than some we've had out there in right.
"He's coming along nicely. He could end up being our center fielder (next year). He brings some energy to our team. We just need him to stay healthy."
Hrozek has put together a solid sophomore campaign in limited action. He's hitting .313 for the season -- both overall and in SEC games. He did swell in limited action last year, taking over the DH down the stretch. He hit .277 as a freshman, starting 24 games. But he was good in the clutch in his rookie campaign. He hit .371 with two outs and .371 with runners in scoring position.
Perhaps he's going to get a few more chances as the Hogs head into post-season play. He's probably going to play when the Hogs host an NCAA regional in two weeks.
In the meantime, if anyone has an idea of how he can prank manager Justin White the little man on the UA baseball team is interested in hearing from you.
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