He lined practice pitches back up the middle. He pulled inside pitches with ease and smoothly went the other way with outside pitches. On his final swing, Lyons smacked a towering drive over the left-field fence, flashing a wide smile as he briskly walked toward the Arkansas dugout.
Nursing a deep right shoulder bruise he suffered during a May 15 collision, Lyons had the appearance of someone ready to return to the lineup.
"He swung the bat really well," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "That gives us another option out there offensively."
Van Horn said Lyons didn't look healthy enough during Thursday's practice to play the field in Arkansas' NCAA Norman Regional opener today against Washington State.
He said Lyons' throws from shortstop still "looked a little bit different." But Van Horn did indicate a willingness to include the 6-foot senior, hitting a team-high .313, as Arkansas' designated hitter.
"Scott threw (Thursday), better than he had thrown," Van Horn said. "He's just still trying to fight that shoulder injury. I wouldn't say he'll be at short starting (today) at 1. But don't count him out before the weekend's over if we get to play enough games."
Senior second baseman Ben Tschepikow would start at shortstop if Lyons doesn't play the field, and freshman Bo Bigham would start at second base. Tschepikow missed the last two games of the SEC Tournament after dislocating his left pinky finger against Georgia on May 21.
But Van Horn said Tschepikow would be "fine" for today's contest.
Keuchel ‘Anxious' For Start
Arkansas junior left-hander Dallas Keuchel has endured his longest layoff from pitching this season. The Razorbacks' starting pitcher today hasn't thrown since their SEC Tournament opener against Florida, in which he lasted only 3 2/3 innings and walked six Gators.
Plus, Keuchel's a Tulsa native who will have plenty of family and friends present at L. Dale Mitchell Park. So needless to say, Keuchel sounded eager Thursday to begin regional play and lift Arkansas to a strong start.
"I'm a little anxious. It's been about a week and half since (my last start)," Keuchel said. "It definitely starts with me. You look at the beginning of the year when we started really well, and I set the tone for the guys. It just carried on from there into Saturday and Sunday.
"The last half of the season hasn't gone too well. It's been subpar. So I'm just trying to set the tone."
Baseball Culture Restored
Washington State's Jared Prince got a phone call a few days ago from former Cougars coach Bobo Brayton. And even though Prince joked Thursday that he could "only understand half of what he said," the message was clear. Brayton called to thank Prince and his teammates for restoring pride to the WSU baseball program.
During Brayton's tenure from 1964-92, the Cougars made almost yearly trips to the NCAA Tournament and even advanced twice to the College World Series. The program hadn't been to the NCAA Tournament in 19 seasons, though, before this season.
"Growing up, my dad always told me that, back in his day, if you were anybody in the state of Washington and you played baseball, you went to Washington State," Prince said. "I know there was a large gap in between there where people went other places.
"We're just happy to put Washington Sate back on the map and bring baseball culture back to the university."
No Saving Doyle
Oklahoma coach Sunny Golloway said Thursday he gave "no thought" to saving staff ace Andrew Doyle (8-4, 3.89) for his team's second game. Doyle, a 6-foot-3 junior right-hander, will start tonight against Wichita State for top-seeded OU.
Golloway said he looked at all 16 of the NCAA Regional matchups and guessed that seven of the No. 1 seeds would throw their No. 2 starters today. Still, he said he wouldn't feel comfortable with such a move. Golloway said he had seen a team throw its No. 2 in game 1 only once in his "14 or 15 regionals" as a coach.
That was when he took his Oral Roberts team west to Southern California.
"They didn't throw (Mark) Prior against us," Golloway said. "We were thankful until we saw their No. 2, who was the Pac-10 pitcher of the year the year before that. Some teams have the luxury of doing that. I don't think that would be advantageous for our team, if our staff made that decision.
"You need to win game 1 before you think about game 2."
Bonding Time Pays Off
Wichita State coach Gene Stephenson pointed to an unusual eight-day break in May as the turning point for his young team. The Shockers lost 12 of 16 games leading into their trip to Southern Illinois.
They then spent an entire weekend in Carbondale, Ill., without playing in game, staying in a hotel in an area that underwent extensive flooding. When the Shockers returned to action, they swept a series with Creighton and stormed out of the loser's bracket to win the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
"With the devastation that happened in that area that weekend, not having power in the hotel and running out of running water, it made us stop and think," Stephenson said Thursday. "We have it pretty good and we're fortunate to be from where we are.
"The fact that we got away from the game and thought about something else and the fact that the guys got to spend some more time together, it made us play better."
Lyons Appears Ready For Return
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