Bigham Hopes to Flip Arkansas' Fortunes

It started as a simple challenge in the weight room, turned into a laugh-inducing trick before an Ole Miss game two weeks ago and has become a tradition.

Before every game, Arkansas' baseball team gathers around second baseman Bo Bigham, tells the freshman it's time for his pregame performance, then watches with delight as he completes a backflip in the team huddle.

"When we found out he could do one, we started forcing him to do it on the field," Arkansas second baseman Ben Tschepikow said with a smile. "It's just fun watching him do that backflip. It kind of gets us fired up a little bit."

Bigham does his pre-game flip as his teammates look on.

So Bigham will continue to be Arkansas' pregame cheerleader, of sorts, when the Razorbacks open NCAA Regional play against Washington State on Friday.

But after his performance at the Southeastern Conference Tournament, it's clear Bigham could play an even bigger role in helping the Razorbacks flip their fortunes in the NCAA tournament after losing in regional play the past four years.

Bigham has quickly become an important contributor on a team that has been led by youth of late. The freshman was a surprise starter in Hoover, Ala., stepping into the lineup in place of injured shortstop Scott Lyons. In four starts at second base, Bigham led the Razorbacks in hitting (6-for-15) and earned a place on the SEC All-Tournament team.

Not bad, considering Bigham had played in just 17 games before the tournament began.

"I remember Ben told me I was probably going to play because he was on short," Bigham said. "I looked at the lineup. I was on second base. So I said, ‘Better get ready.'"

His impressive stretch has prompted coach Dave Van Horn to search for ways to keep Bigham on the field this week.

"If Ben hadn't been doing as well as he had and been a leader on the field, I would've played Bo a little more (this season)," Van Horn said. "We're just in a bad situation.

"But when he got his opportunity he did a great job. I might try to find a way to get him in there this weekend, somehow, even if it's at another position. I don't know yet."

Either way, Bigham knows he'll play a bigger part in Arkansas' NCAA efforts whether it's on or off the field.

He first turned a backflip for teammates when they didn't believe he could do one in the weight room. They were impressed enough to encourage him to try it on the field.

As small as it seems, Tschepikow said Bigham's antics have helped keep the Razorbacks loose through tough times.

"We went through the long streak of losing games and everybody is frustrated," Tschepikow said. "It's just something to put a smile on your face. It's just a game."

Bigham said his mother, who is a gymnastics instructor, taught him to do a backflip when he was young. He never had any formal gymnastics training or any classes growing up, but said she did teach him a trick or two.

Of course, parlaying that talent to the baseball diamond never entered his imagination. Bigham is relatively shy by nature, so he doesn't like drawing attention to himself by turning a backflip in front of teammates and fans.

But it's not exactly his choice. He's just doing his job.

"I've tried to get out of it because I don't want to bust my head, but they make me do it," Bigham said. "They give me a really hard time about it. But that's OK. I guess I'm going to have to do it before every game now."

Bo Bigham

Position: Second base.

Class: Freshman.

Height: 5-foot-11.

Weight: 170 pounds.

Hometown: Texarkana.

Notables: Batting .275 with one home run, one double and four RBIs in 21 games as a freshman. Also has scored nine runs and stolen four bases. ... Earned the starting nod at second base for the Southeastern Conference Tournament and hit a team-high .400 (6-for-15). Named to the SEC All-Tournament team for his efforts. ... Texarkana native was a two-time All-State football and baseball player in high school, who batted better than .430 in each of his four years on the diamond.

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