Measuring Stick Arrives

Arkansas has one week before league play begins. This is the last weekend the Hogs have to test their pitching and lineup before facing the SEC.

Dave Van Horn wanted to find out about the Arkansas pitching staff before matching his team with Florida for the start of conference play. First things first. California plays at Arkansas this weekend in a three-game series.

But it's Florida that is on the mind of Van Horn, the Arkansas head coach, as he looks at his team against the solid team from the Pac-10. How will these pitchers, this lineup fare next weekend when the Gators come to Baum Stadium?

Will this weekend's pitching rotation be the same the Hogs put out there for the Gators? Right now, it looks like Dallas Keuchel, T. J. Forrest and Drew Smyly 1-2-3 in the rotation. Keuchel will start game one against Cal's Bears tonight.

But there is also some thought to inserting either Mike Bolsinger and Bryan Bingham into that rotation sometime later if they can add to their pitch count. Both pitched in relief Tuesday, the first time they've been in a game this season.

Bolsinger is battling back from mononucleosis. Bingham has been out with a rib injury. Another option to start a conference game would be Brett Eibner, solid in a four-inning start Wednesday.

Van Horn has options to consider at the plate, too. He's yet to see his offense ignite in a 7-1 start. Should he go with veterans, or some newcomers who have done well in spot play, most notably Collin Kuhn.

The Hogs were hopeful they would get on track last weekend when Western Illinois was scheduled for three games. Two were canceled because of weather. He used the two mid-week games to look at some younger players. The Hogs have yet to score in double digits this season -- partly because the wind has been blowing in for all eight games.

"We've had some balls that would have been out had the wind not been just blowing straight in," Van Horn said. "We are going to hit more home runs than what we've seen so far."

There haven't been many balls leave Baum Stadium yet. Andy Wilkins leads the Hogs with four. Ben Tschepikow is next with two. Jacob House, Ryan Cisterna and Jacob House have one each. The opposition has hit just three circuit clouts.

The Hogs have yet to get more than two or three hitters going in the same game. Wilkins (.414) and Tschepikow (.333) are the only Razorbacks with more than 20 at bats above .300. Leadoff man Chase Leavitt started fast, but has cooled.

Eibner, the regular center fielder, struckout 12 of his first 20 at bats and is batting just .167. But Eibner had two hits including a game-winning triple on Tuesday.

Cisterna has eight strikeouts in 15 at bats and has not looked good on breaking pitches. He's getting a battle for his catching spot from freshman James McCann -- hitting .385 in limited plate appearances (5 of 13).

Tschepikow started the season in the second slot in the lineup, but stepped into the No. 3 spot when Eibner began to struggle. Kuhn (.385) has been solid in the second spot, playing some as the designated hitter of late.

The Hogs expected some power out of true freshman Zack Cox and House, but have yet to see much. Cox has no home runs, two doubles and a triple while batting .250. House hit the walk-off home run last week to win a game, but is batting .190 with no other extra base hits.

Arkansas must get more pop in the middle of the lineup or opposing pitchers will begin to pitch around Wilkins. They may already be doing that. Wilkins has 10 walks to go with his 10 hits.

The Hogs will get a good measuring stick this weekend. Cal is good. The Bears are 7-2 after sweeping Long Beach State earlier this week. They can hit and the pitching is solid, too. Nothing will come easy this weekend.

That isn't all bad. With one week left before the start of conference play, Arkansas will know a lot about its club after this weekend.

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