Hogs Ready for Fresh Start

Arkansas and Florida open SEC play Friday night at Baum Stadium. Ben Tschepikow said the Razorbacks are ready to play.

Dave Van Horn looked like he was all business Thursday afternoon when he paused a few minutes to answer a reporter's questions before what turned out to be an indoor workout. It was obvious he was still stinging from an 8-3 loss Tuesday night to Centenary.

Van Horn, the Arkansas baseball coach, was clear that he and the Hogs wanted to play Wednesday. The second game of the Centenary game was canceled because of rain Wednesday.

"We would have liked to have played that game," Van Horn said. "We wanted to play. We've lost three games to weather. We needed those games to look at a few more players, a few more pitchers."

As it is, Van Horn is pleased with some aspects of the 9-3 Hogs. He isn't happy with the consistency of the hitting, but he likes the starting pitching rotation as the Hogs play host to Florida at Baum Stadium for the beginning of SEC baseball.

"We've been okay, but we need more consistency up and down our lineup," Van Horn said. "But we've gotten good pitching from this rotation."

The weekend rotation will be Dallas Keuchel on Friday, Mike Bolsinger on Saturday and Drew Smyly for the Sunday finale. Game time Friday night is 6:35 p.m.

"Those three guys have thrown strikes and competed," Van Horn said. "We're going to see a good Florida team. They've got four or five position players back. They've played well. We think we are going to see two highly recruited lefthanders sometime this weekend. They've been throwing the two freshman lefties on the weekend."

The cold weather forecast for the entire weekend was not good news at least one ailing Razorback. Senior outfielder Chase Leavitt, the UA leadoff batter, is listed as day-to-day after tweaking a hamstring against Centenary on Tuesday.

"Right now, I don't know that he'll play on Friday night," Van Horn said just before Thursday's workout. "We'll have to wait and see."

Leavitt, leading the team with a .409 batting average, reached base safely 14 times in 17 plate appearances this past weekend against California with nine hits in 12 official at bats.

Leavitt joins fellow senior and co-captain Ben Tschepikow as the two most productive hitters in the UA lineup. Tschepikow, moved to the No. 3 slot in the batting order early in the year, has hit four home runs and is batting .385. He has also stolen five bases in seven attempts.

Van Horn had high praise for Tschepikow. "He's played very well, been a great leader for us," Van Horn said. "He's doing a lot of things to help the team.

"We just need a few more guys to contribute up and down the lineup. We've usually had two or three guys each game. We need a couple of more to give us one or two hits. Hitting is about timing and we haven't had a lot of timely hits just yet. We hope to change that."

Tschepikow's four home runs have been a surprise. He's a fifth-year senior with never more than one homer in any previous campaign.

"I promise I'm not trying to hit home runs," Tschepikow said. "I've kinda run into some, just gotten lucky. That's not what I'm up there trying to get.

"My one goal at the plate is to put the ball in play, get on base for the team. Some of them have been opposite field and just happened. I'm not a guy who goes up there trying to drive the ball out of the park. That's not going to change either."

Tschepikow didn't dwell on the Centenary loss, but he said it did bother the team and coaches.

"We are excited about getting to a new season, a fresh start, SEC games," Tschepikow said. "This is what you look forward to, the SEC. It's a new slate, like I said. You start over when you get to conference games.

"The Centenary game did leave a bad taste with us. We wanted to play the next day so we were disappointed we couldn't do something about the way we played Tuesday night. We got it handed to us pretty good the first game and wanted to win the second.

"I wouldn't say that's still with us. We've moved on. Like I said, this is a new season. We are excited and we will be ready to play."

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