Wilkins Hopes Hot Hitting Continues

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas second baseman Ben Tschepikow has been around college baseball for some time now.

The fifth-year senior has played in 194 games, logged 705 at-bats and seen some pretty talented hitters go through remarkable stretches. But Tschepikow doesn't remember watching anyone snap out of a slump quite like Andy Wilkins did over the weekend.

"It was one of the best hitting displays I've ever seen," Tschepikow said. "I don't think they ever got him out. It was fun to watch."

Well, Wilkins did make a few outs. It just wasn't very often.

The sophomore helped lift the Razorbacks to three big wins by going 12-for-16 (.750) with two home runs, five doubles and 11 RBI in the Norman Regional. He was named the regional's most valuable player and was key to an offensive surge Arkansas hopes will continue when it plays Florida State in this weekend's Super Regional.

Wilkins, who leads Arkansas in hitting (.329), home runs (17), doubles (17) and RBIs (51), couldn't have been more relieved to play an important role again. The success came on the heels of what he described as the toughest stretch he has ever experienced.

In his previous 14 games, the Broken Arrow, Okla., native was hitting just .213 (10 of 47) with two home runs, a double and six RBIs. It's no coincidence the Razorbacks were 4-10 in those games.

"It was definitely huge," Wilkins said of his week. "I felt like I had to contribute to help the guys win and I hadn't been doing it recently.

"So I took it as a personal goal to get back on track last weekend."

It started in Wilkins' first plate appearance against Washington State, when his two-out double scored the game's first run in the opening inning. However, Wilkins said he didn't really feel like the slump was over until he stepped up to the plate again in the fourth.

It was a simple single. But the way Wilkins hit the ball — he got out in front of a pitch on a full count and it just enough over the infield — gave him mounds of confidence.

"I said, ‘Hey maybe it's about to turn around this weekend,'" Wilkins said. "I didn't hit it as hard. It just got over the shortstop and I hadn't had a lot of balls fall in. It was nice to finally get one."

Wilkins unloaded weeks of frustration the rest of the weekend, beginning with his single that scored the first run in the nine-run eighth inning against Washington State on Friday. He followed up his 3-for-5 performance by going 9-for-11 in the final two games of the series, collecting three doubles, two home runs and nine RBIs.

"I think he finally just realized that he was struggling and we needed him," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "He came to grips with that. He was frustrated. We all talked to him over the last couple of weeks. I think he was stuck on the same RBIs there for awhile."

Wilkins said the encouragement from Van Horn and his teammates helped along the way. So did session after session with hitting coach Todd Butler, who helped Wilkins with his timing at the plate.

Wilkins figured the slump, no matter how bad it had become, would eventually end. He's glad it finally did when it mattered most.

And so are the rest of the Razorbacks.

"When he swings the bat that well, we're all going," Tschepikow said. "He had a tough mentality and he persevered through everything. If he didn't, he wouldn't have had the weekend he had. He knows he's good and he knows he can hit. It showed up."



Andy Wilkins

Position: First Base/Third Base

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 225 pounds

Hometown: Broken Arrow, Okla.

Notable: Leads team with a .329 batting average, 17 home runs and 51 RBIs ... named the Most Valuable Player of the Norman (Okla.) Regional after going 12-of-16 (.750), 2 home runs, 5 doubles and 11 runs batted in to help the Razorbacks win the regional and advance to the Super Regional.

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