Razorbacks Take Care Of Business

FAYETTEVILLE — Looks like the Arkansas athletic department still might have to find a spot for the year 2008 under the "NCAA REGIONALS" sign on the Baum Stadium scoreboard.

With little to gain, and plenty to lose, the Razorbacks made their final pitch to the NCAA selection committee in emphatic fashion Monday night. Their 12-6 victory over Western Illinois will at least allow positive thoughts back into the minds of the Hogs, who dropped their series last weekend at Mississippi State.

Don't think the victory before 1,120 fans will make the wait until next Monday morning's selection show any more tolerable, though. Plenty of nail-biting will surely take place this week as Arkansas can only sit back and monitor conference tournaments taking place around the country.

The Razorbacks even hugged one another in their post-game handshake line, reminiscent of a season-ending scene.

"This week's going to be so tough," Arkansas third baseman Logan Forsythe said. "We were hugging out there just now, because we're still not sure. We think we're going to get in. But we just don't know."

The Hogs (34-22) did enough in the first five innings Monday night to prove that they didn't want their season to end. They exploded for four runs in the first inning and seven in the fifth. In the meantime, redshirt freshman pitcher Sam Murphy pitched his finest five frames as a Razorback.

Murphy, a 6-foot right-hander, gave up no runs on three hits and struck out four Leathernecks (20-31) while walking none. He pitched ahead in the count, throwing first-pitch strikes to 13 of the 18 batters he faced, and tossed 41 of his 63 pitches for strikes. His only other scoreless appearance came during a one-inning outing on March 12 at Arizona State.

"Sam gave us a chance to relax," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said.

Murphy said he relaxed himself and merely tried to throw to contact.

"I just wanted to throw strikes," Murphy said. "I was trying not to do too much with my stuff. It was pretty simple out there, just fastballs and sliders."

Western Illinois did manage to score five runs in the sixth and one in the seventh off Arkansas relievers Evan Cox and Travis Hill. But another mini-meltdown by the Arkansas bullpen wasn't enough to completely dampen spirits.

For now, attitudes will remain positive, even as Van Horn dreads what could be announced next Monday.

"This is really unusual," Van Horn said. "I haven't been in this situation in 10 years. I'm used to being in regionals, and it's tough. It's tough on our players. You can see by the way they're acting. They don't want this to be over."

Attendance: 1,120

Around The Horn: Diamond Hogs Notebook

Two Big Frames

The Razorbacks did most of their offensive damage in two innings, tallying four runs in the first and seven in the fifth. With two runners on base in the first, left fielder Casey Coon got the scoring started with a sharp single to right field. Three runs scored on the play because Western Illinois right fielder Kenny Price let Coon's single roll under his glove. The ball rolled all the way to the fence.

First baseman Andy Wilkins followed with a solo home run to right field. Arkansas then slapped seven hits during its fifth-inning outburst. Second baseman Ben Tschepikow, third baseman Logan Forsythe and catcher Jeff Nutt had RBI hits while right fielder Chase Leavitt and Wilkins had two-run doubles.

Cisterna's Hand

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn confirmed after the Razorbacks' victory that junior catcher Ryan Cisterna had broken his right wrist last Friday at Mississippi State. Cisterna watched Monday night's game with a brace on his right hand.

He left the Razorbacks' 6-5 loss last Friday night in Starkville, Miss., when he was hit by a pitch in the right hand. Cisterna, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior, started 42 games this season at catcher. He hit .236 with nine home runs, 25 runs scored and 19 runs batted in.

Short Hops

Wilkins crushed his eighth home run of the season in the first inning, giving the Hogs a season total of 77. The solo homer to right field also gave Arkansas 77 home runs this season, which ranks third in school history. The Hogs drilled 84 homers in 1999 and 80 in 1997. ... Western Illinois left fielder Jared Wolf jumped and stretched his glove above the left-center field fence to rob Tschepikow of a home run to lead off the sixth. ... Van Horn said the Razorbacks wouldn't practice today or Wednesday and would return to practice on Thursday.

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