Lyons Fits No. 2 Spot

FAYETTEVILLE -- Every day last summer, Scott Lyons remembered 0-for-20.

Every day, as he lifted weights with teammates Ryan Cisterna, Tom Hauskey and Ben Tscheipkow, Arkansas' senior shortstop recalled his painful batting start to 2008.

Every day, he didn't need to search for motivation.

"Last year was probably the hardest year of my life," said Lyons, a 6-foot, 185-pound native of Covina, Calif. "It really was like a blessing to me, though. It made me work so hard this summer and want it even more."

Lyons' offseason persistence allowed him to open the 2009 season differently, and the Cal State-Northridge transfer has settled nicely into the No. 2 spot in Arkansas' batting order.

He has fit that role because he has embraced it, Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. And heading into this weekend's series against Vanderbilt, Lyons has a .330 batting average to prove he has improved immensely since those 20 maddening at-bats without a hit.

"He's always been a contact hitter," Van Horn said. "He hit (No. 2) a lot in (junior college) and summer ball. He knows how to handle the bat. He does a good job of driving in runs, and he likes (hitting second)."

Lyons, who finished 2008 with a .200 average, batted ninth in nine of Arkansas' first 10 games. Van Horn then moved Tschepikow to the No. 3 spot, opening up the No. 2 spot in which Lyons said he feels so comfortable.

He appreciates all the little things required of a quality No. 2 hitter.

"I pride myself on bunting and playing small ball," said Lyons, who will start tonight despite resting Wednesday because of tightness in his groin. "I'm not the biggest guy, and I'm not going to hit home runs like the rest of our lineup. I just try to hit line drives and ground balls and get on base."

Arkansas hitting coach Todd Butler said he knew Lyons would bounce back from his uncharacteristic 2008 campaign.

"I'm not surprised," Butler said. "I knew he was a good player. We all did. But what he's got now that maybe he didn't last year is confidence. He is hitting sliders the other way. He had the big (two-RBI pinch) hit (Tuesday night against Arizona State).

"He's a very good player, a great defender, and he's a lot stronger this year."

Lyons' improved hitting this season has validated his decision to come to Arkansas in the fall of 2007, a choice that seemed quite random to him at the time.

He had just finished breaking the Mt. San Antonio (Calif.) Junior College batting record (.456) when he decided to write letters to "major baseball programs with tradition."

In his letter to Van Horn, Lyons spoke of his desire to "win a championship ring." He also asked if Van Horn remembered Lyons from Cal State-Northridge's 2006 visit to Fayetteville.

Van Horn called Lyons the day after receiving his letter.

"I never pictured myself here," Lyons said. "But I feel at home. It's comfortable. I love it here."

At Arkansas, as well as in the No. 2 spot.



Scott Lyons



Class: Senior

Position: Shortstop

Height: 6-foot

Weight: 185

Hometown: Covina, Calif.

Previous Schools: Cal State-Northridge, Mt. San Antonio Junior College (Walnut, Calif.)

Notables: Has started 26 of Arkansas' 30 games at shortstop and ranks fourth on the team in batting average (.330) and third in RBIs (24). ... Earned honorable mention all-Big West Conference honors after driving in 30 runs his freshman season at Cal State-Northridge in 2006. ... Transferred to Mt. San Antonio and shattered the school's batting average record by hitting .456 in 2007. ... Played for the Chatham A's of the Cape Cod League during the summer of 2007 and twice earned All-San Gabriel Valley honors at Charter Oak High in Covina. ... Drafted in the 36th round of the 2007 MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox.




WEEKEND TICKET



VANDERBILT AT NO. 12 ARKANSAS

WHEN: 6:35 p.m., today; 3:05 p.m., Saturday; 1:05 p.m., Sunday

WHERE: Baum Stadium, Fayetteville

ON THE AIR: KFAY-AM 1030; KURM-AM 790, FM-100.3; KHGG-AM 1580, FM-103.1; KXIO-FM 106.9

RECORDS: Vanderbilt 19-13, 5-7 Southeastern Conference; Arkansas 24-6, 10-2

SERIES RECORD: Arkansas leads 24-14

LAST MEETING: Vanderbilt won 6-2 on March 30, 2008, in Nashville, Tenn.

TODAY'S PROBABLE PITCHERS: Vanderbilt, Mike Minor (2-3, 3.55 ERA); Arkansas, Dallas Keuchel (5-0, 3.45 ERA)

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