Diamond Nutt

Arkansas catcher Jeff Nutt hopes to continue swinging his hot bat as the Razorbacks (20-16, 5-9) open up a three-game weekend set with visiting Tennessee (22-14, 9-6) Friday night at 6:35 p.m.

FAYETTEVILLE - It seems no report on an Arkansas baseball player this season would be complete without mentioning an injury.

For that very reason, Razorbacks catcher/designated hitter Jeff Nutt qualifies for some publicity.

Because of injuries to both shoulders, Nutt, a 6-foot, 193-pound senior from Wylie, Texas, has missed most of the season.

Nutt, who transferred to Arkansas from Navarro (Texas) College last year, only recently returned to the lineup.

In the 10 games since he's been back, Nutt has hit .388 with 4 home runs and 11 RBI.

Those are impressive numbers. Is it that Nutt is seeing the ball so well because his father, Kelly, is a Big 12 umpire?

Nutt laughs at the mention.

But ...

"Yeah, I guess, I don't know," he said. "I'm just seeing good right now, trying to have good at-bats."

Arkansas will need all those good at-bats from Nutt when it hosts Tennessee this weekend in another Southeastern Conference series, starting at 6:35 p.m. today in Baum Stadium.

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said it's been worth the wait to have Nutt back on the diamond.

"He's confident, I mean, he's so much of a better hitter this year than he was last year," Van Horn said. "Really, he swings with his shoulder. His swings are shorter. All that time off, I think he really perfected his swing and that's all he could do, was kind of swing the bat. That's all he could do. He couldn't throw and do some things.

"It's a better swing.

"Now he's a senior. He's been through the league. His confidence ... what a difference a year usually makes, coming out of junior college. A lot of times, we lose those juniors after their junior year, they sign. If we get them back, usually they are pretty good."

Nutt has had an immediate impact since his return.

Just look at what he did heading into this week:

• Led Arkansas to its first series victory at Florida since 1999.

• Batted .462 for the week (4 games) with a three-game hitting streak beginning on Friday night at Florida.

• During the week scored three times, hit two home runs (both at Florida) and had four RBI.

• Slugged .923 for the week and with four walks was on base at a .588 clip.

"I'm not really trying to do too much," Nutt said. "I just want to go up there and hit it hard somewhere."

He's done that and more, but wishes he could have contributed sooner since it's his senior year.

"Being out has been tough," Nutt said. "It really tried me mentally and physically, but I worked as hard and as much as I could up in the (batting) cages, so when I came back, I'd be ready to go.

"I'm about as close to 100 percent as I'm going to get."

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