Bolsinger More Focused In Hitless Outing

FAYETTEVILLE — The visual evidence didn't totally shock Arkansas pitcher Mike Bolsinger. The 6-foot-2 sophomore right-hander knew he tended to space out on the mound. But injured for all of April with a pinched nerve in his right shoulder, Bolsinger had ample time to study his on-field antics.

"I caught myself looking back on the tape — wandering around, looking around, not focusing on the game and the batters," Bolsinger said.

The sobering moments in front of his TV changed Bolsinger, and his altered attitude may have landed him a spot in Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn's weekend rotation. He struck out five Alabama batters in a relief performance Friday night, and Bolsinger dazzled 6,426 fans at Baum Stadium on Sunday with 3 2/3 hitless innings in Arkansas' 5-4 victory.

He earned the win and again struck out five Crimson Tide hitters, improving his record to 3-0 and lowering his earned run average to 3.33. Van Horn also believed Bolsinger appeared more focused than he had earlier in the season.

"You'll probably see him in the rotation this weekend," Van Horn said. "He's healthy, and he's confident. We didn't see him complaining or acting funny on the mound. He's done that a time or two, you know, kind of sending signs to us, and we didn't see that."

Van Horn may not have drawn even a glance from Bolsinger once throughout his entire appearance. In fact, his eyes didn't stray far from Arkansas catcher Ryan Cisterna during his 52-pitch performance, which included 32 strikes.

"Usually, he's been out there, and he hasn't been real sure of what's going on in the game," Cisterna said. "He's been unsure of things. And he's got a lot of emotion out there, too much really. He's a guy you've got to keep calm, and he did a great job of doing that (Sunday). He didn't show much emotion (Sunday), and he was much better."

He recorded the final out of the fifth inning, striking out Jake Smith after replacing Arkansas starter Cliff Springston. He then put runners on second and third base before finishing the sixth inning by striking out Brandon May. Bolsinger faced three batters in the seventh, aided by an inning-ending double play, and four batters in the eighth.

Junior left-hander Stephen Richards replaced Bolsinger with one out in the ninth, and about half of the fans inside Baum Stadium stood as he walked to the dugout.

"He located all his pitches for strikes — sliders, curveballs, fastballs and changeups," Cisterna said. "He got them all over for strikes and that was his main key. He was able to rotate and get ahead of hitters. ... He was coming in as one of our top-line guys this season. I thought he was going to be a big-time pitcher. So it set us back a bit having him out with the injury."

Bolsinger said his comfort with his right shoulder also has allowed him to increase his focus and, in turn, feel more confident. He was set to start on March 18 at Nebraska but felt a pop in his shoulder. He only lasted one batter in his next outing on March 30 at Vanderbilt, and he spent April rehabbing.

But now, Bolsinger said the pain has fully subsided. He acted surprised about how fresh he felt after Sunday's game, and he seemed thrilled his future might include a starting role.

"I wanted to come out and prove something these last three games," Bolsinger said. I really tried to focus on the game and get the ball back and just look at the batter."

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