Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn is pleased with a 6-1 start two weeks into the season. Starting a position lineup of three freshmen and using so many newcomers on the mound is a recipe for a slow start, but the Hogs have found themselves behind in five of their seven outings.
"Easily, we could be even up right now," Van Horn said Monday. "We've gained some valuable experience for a very young team."
It's a battered team, too. The injury list grew over the weekend with veterans Logan Forsythe (hamstring), Brett Eibner (shoulder) and Wayne Hrozek (broken hand) are the new additions.
Hrozek was hit by a pitch on Sunday. It was a clean break which means he could be out for as long as eight weeks. Van Horn said they will evaluate the need when he is healthy, but wouldn't rule out applying for a medical hardship since his return would be so late in the season.
Forsythe suffered what is hoped to be a minor hamstring pull. He's already battling a sore foot after pre-Christmas surgery for a fracture. Forsythe might be ready for designated hitter duty this weekend.
Eibner hurt his left shoulder diving on the ground. He's a two-way player as a pitcher and a center fielder. He's scheduled to get a starting pitcher assignment as part of a doubleheader against South Dakota State on Wednesday. The Hogs were scheduled to play on Tuesday, but that game has been postponed into the double header.
"He's going to try to pitch on Wednesday," Van Horn said. "But, obviously, we are watching to see how that shoulder does. He couldn't raise his left arm above shoulder height yesterday. They've iced it two days and will try to loosen it up this afternoon."
The Hogs have had seveal others on the injury list to start the season. Sean Jones, slated to be the center fielder and the leadoff batter, still looks to be three weeks away from being ready. He sustained a broken hand in preseason when he was hit by a pitch.
In keeping with the injury theme, Van Horn said pitcher Shaun Seibert would continue to get innings, but he will come out of the starting rotation for now and work out of the bullpen. Seibert is coming back from Tommy John surgery to his pitching elbow. He's made two starts. He pitched one out deep into the third on Saturday against Texas A&M. He had a quality first inning before some tough luck hit him in the second.
The Hogs' only loss was a 15-7 setback to host Texas A&M in a game Van Horn was ejected for arguing a call at first base when he thought the Hogs turned a double play. He said replays showed he was right to argue. Replays also showed the first base umpire was late moving into position to make the call, a factor that might have hurt the look he got at the play.
"You look back and you wish you didn't (get ejected), but at least it's better than when I was coaching junior college," he said. "Back then, you had no other place to go but to head to the bus and sit there like a little boy who was in trouble. At A&M, the visiting clubhouse had a treadmill and an exercise bike. I got in a workout. Actually, I saw most of the game from the tunnel. I knew what was going on."
Van Horn praised Aaron Murphree for "some great clutch hitting" in the Hogs' first seven games. He said the senior outfielder had only one bad game, a three-strikeout outing against Texas A&M.
"Right now, we have some newcomers and freshman hitting very well," he said. "Andy Wilkins, Jacob House, Ryan Cisterna and I'd almost throw Murphree in there since he didn't play much last year, all of those guys are doing some great things. Wilkins is going to be a great player. He may set some records over the next three years.
"We just need to get our middle infielders going and get some guys healthy. I think this is going to be a good hitting lineup. Tim Smalling and Scott Lyons, our middle infielders, are 1 for 40 right now and had some tough luck with some line drives right at people. They'll get going, I think.
"I think our pitching is starting to get sorted out, too. We've got an idea of what we are doing there now. We need to get Stephen Richards back. His elbow is better and he could help us, too."
As far as the starting rotation for the next few games, Eibner and James Mahler are scheduled to start in the Wednesday doubleheader. The Hogs will be off Thursday before playing host to Sienna in a three-game set starting Friday. The starters are likely to be Mike Bolsinger and Cliff Springston on Friday (set for a 4 p.m. start) and Saturday (1 p.m.), respectively. Van Horn will leave Sunday's starter open for now, but he indicated that the Hogs are likely to start Eibner again on Tuesday when they play at No. 1 Arizona State.
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