Hello, Norman

Arkansas gets a number two seed in the NCAA Tournament's Norman Regional and will face third-seeded Washington State on Friday while top-seeded Oklahoma takes on fourth-seeded Wichita State.

Hello, Norman.

That's where the University of Arkansas baseball team will start the Road to Omaha on Friday.

The second-seeded Razorbacks (34-22) will meet a familiar foe in Washington State (31-23) while top-seed and host Oklahoma will battle Wichita State in the other first-round pairing.

Arkansas opened its season with a three-game sweep of Washington State at Baum Stadium back on Feb. 20-21-22 and took a single home game from Oklahoma late in the season.

"I just feel fortunate to be in the regionals," Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. "We played an extremely tough schedule. We have played two of the three other teams in our regional and had some success.

"We have played a lot of these clubs across the country that are playing (in the NCAA Tournament) and held our own," Van Horn added. "It is a new season when this begins and anything can happen. It is just a matter of getting hot at the right time and taking a great attitude over to Norman and getting prepared for Washington State."

The Razorbacks were ranked No. 1 in the country at one point this season before going 17-17 in its last 34 games.

They rebounded mentally somewhat last weekend in the SEC Tournament by going 2-2 with two wins over Florida and a close loss to Georgia while reaching the semifinals and then being ousted by Vanderbilt.

"I think it helped a lot," Van Horn said of his team's mental state. "Guys know we can win and win in an environment like the SEC Tournament. Florida being a (national) number eight seed and we beat them five times on the year should give you some confidence."

The Razorbacks played the entire tournament without starting shortstop Scott Lyons and the final two games without second baseman Ben Tschepikow.

"I think the biggest issue for us is to get some guys healthy and get some experience back out on the field," Van Horn said. "Tschepikow, he is going to be okay. Lyons, we are still working on that shoulder and hopefully by Wednesday, he is going to be good. He is continuing to get treatment.

"We need to get him back in the line-up and obviously his presence on the field and the way he was signing the bat – he was one of our best hitters."

Tscheipkow – despite playing in just two games – joined freshmen Zach Cox and Bo Bigham on the all-tournament.

A healthy Cox is now living up to the promise that made him a high Major League Baseball draftee last June.

"I think he would have probably hit for a better average and power, but he had a back that was messed up and he hurt it in January," Van Horn said. "I think he is starting to show a little of what he can do now that he is healthy. He hadn't really been healthy all year until about mid-to-three quarters through the season where he feels really good. He is moving better at third, he is swinging the bat looser and actually looks like he is pitching better."

Arkansas downed Washington State 4-2, 7-5 and 4-3 in their trio of games earlier this season.

"They are a scrappy team," Van Horn said. "They had a very good year in the Pac-10 and I think might have finished second. I am sure they are a lot better than when they came out here the first time. That was so early. We played two or three one-run games."

Arkansas ace Dallas Keuchel will get the ball on Friday hoping to shake off a couple of bad outings his last two times out.

"His ERA has jumped up there a bit the last two outings," Van Horn said. "He'll be focused in. It's his home state and he is do for a really good outing and he is going to have to do it against a very good team."

Van Horn thinks rest will be a factor in Keuchel returning to form.

"We only threw him 74 or 75 pitches in the tournament and 107 the weekend before so he should be well-rested now," Van Horn said. "If it was just a little fatigue thing, that is just the way the game works. There are a lot of ups and downs. We are hoping he will have a couple of good outings."

Van Horn certainly believes Arkansas has a chance to win this regional.

"I think we have enough pitching and I think we have a team offensively do what it can do," Van Horn said. "It's been disappointing, but whenever you hit something like this - a regional – it can just turn for you. It's just a matter of doing it. The guys that have been frustrated all year, they start getting it rolling a little bit and anything can happen."

In addition to playing two of the teams, Van Horn got a chance to watch Wichita State on the bus ride home.

"I watched them play on TV a little bit on the way back from our tournament," Van Horn said. "We had a satellite on the bus and they were on with Creighton. They had to win that tournament to get in. So have seen every team a little bit, but they have seen us as well. Again, I think it is about match-ups in this situation."

The fact that Norman is close by is a plus for Arkansas, who was on track to host this regional before faltering late.

"I think the players are excited about going to Norman, in fact I know they are," Van Horn said. "It's three hours from here, family and friends can get to the game, for our fans here in Arkansas it is close. It will be fun."

Van Horn noted his team was all business during the NCAA Tournament selection show on Monday morning.

"Nobody was all hooting or hollering," Van Horn said. "We just watched it. It was probably pretty quiet. I think they are just ready to go play somebody and get it going."

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