Bring On The Seminoles

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - They competed in front of sellout crowds at Georgia as part of compiling a 12-8 road record this season. They traveled to Auburn, Alabama and Tennessee. The Arkansas Razorbacks even played before 7,000 people at South Carolina.

Still, they never encountered an environment quite like Dick Howser Stadium, where No. 16 Arkansas' Super Regional begins today at No. 8 Florida State. The Razorbacks' veterans saw a similar scene last season at LSU, but their freshmen didn't.

No matter, Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said this week. He knows his Hogs are focused on the right things these days, as evidenced by their dominant performance at the Norman (Okla.) Regional.

"I don't think it'll bother us," Van Horn said. "We've played before some really good crowds, even our home crowds, so we've gotten a feel for it. We've seen just about everything.

"It's just about going out there and executing the game and making plays and pitches, and the best team will win."

Being the best team in Tallahassee, however, hasn't proven easy for visiting teams this season — since the stadium's inception in 1983, for that matter. And if the Razorbacks want to make their first trip to the College World Series since 2004, they'll have to overcome more than FSU's talent.

It's tough enough Arkansas must deal with a Seminoles team that starts two dominant left-handers, hits .323 and scored a ridiculous 37 runs in its last contest. But the Razorbacks also must ignore some of the rowdiest college baseball fans in the country.

Freshman third baseman Zack Cox said Arkansas wouldn't get rattled by Florida State's followers. He insisted the Razorbacks are too worried about themselves, about their own goals, to worry about what's going on in the stands.

"I think we'll be able to handle it," Cox said. "We've been to Alabama, to Georgia, to all different kinds of places in the SEC. We have a focus and that's getting to Omaha. I don't think we'll let anything like that affect us."

Even so, Florida State stormed to a 33-6 record this season at Dick Howser Stadium, assisted by The Animals, a group loyally located in Section B of the stadium since the early '80s.

The fans here aren't necessarily ruthless. They're classy. They don't get vulgar or personal. They even gave Georgia's starting pitcher this past weekend, Trevor Holder, a standing ovation as he walked from the mound to the Bulldogs' dugout after being pulled.

But their creativity has shocked even Florida State's players. Despite saying the Seminoles still must hit, pitch and field better than Arkansas, longtime coach Mike Martin said The Animals provide a "definite advantage."

"There are no better fans than the Florida State fans," Martin said.

No stranger perhaps, either. The Animals' Web site states it has "worked hard to establish a reputation for originality, positive energy and general zaniness." This takes form in the signing of songs throughout the game, including "O', Canada" for some reason.

"They say it's Section B, but I say everyone in the stands is an Animal," Florida State's Tyler Holt said. "They're all going crazy. ... I'm just glad we're playing at home, that's all I can say."

As for the Razorbacks, fans in the stands are the last people on their minds, senior shortstop Ben Tschepikow said. They're worrying about hitting Florida State left-hander Sean Gilmartin and getting strikes from their own left-hander, Dallas Keuchel. They're thinking about fielding cleanly.

And they're consumed with one thought. Omaha.

"We're not too worried about all that," Tschepikow said. "Our main focus is our team. If we play well and hit like we did at Oklahoma, we'll be hard to stop, regardless of who they've got (in the crowd).

"We've played in front of a lot of fans, so it's not going to get to us, I don't think. We'll be ready for anything."



NCAA SUPER REGIONAL TICKET

NO. 16 ARKANSAS AT NO. 8 FLORIDA STATE

WHEN: Today-Sunday, all games at 11 a.m.

WHERE: Dick Howser Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla.

TV: ESPN (Today, Sunday); ESPN2 (Saturday).

ON THE AIR: KFAY-AM 1030; KURM-AM 790, FM 100.3; FM 103.1; KYNG-AM 1590; KHGG-AM 1580.

RECORDS: Arkansas Razorkbacks, 37-22; Florida State Seminoles, 45-16.

SERIES RECORD: Arkansas leads 3-0.

LAST MEETING: Arkansas beat Florida State 7-5 and 4-2 June 11-12 in the 2004 Super Regionals in Fayetteville to advance to the College World Series.

TODAY'S PROBABLE STARTERS: Arkansas, LHP Dallas Keuchel (7-3, 4.12); Florida State, LHP Sean Gilmartin (12-3, 3.48).

SATURDAY'S PROBABLE STARTERS: Arkansas, RHP Brett Eibner (5-4, 4.25); Florida State, LHP Brian Busch (6-2, 4.04).

SUNDAY'S PROBABLE STARTERS: Arkansas, LHP Drew Smyly (3-1, 4.72); Florida State, RHP Mike McGee (6-2, 4.04).

ARKANSAS VS. FLORIDA STATE ALL-TIME*

Winner Score Site Date

Arkansas 4-2 Fayetteville June 12, 2004

Arkansas 7-5 Fayetteville June 11, 2004

Arkansas 7-6 Tallahassee, Fla. May 25, 1985

* all NCAA Tournament Games



Team Comparison

Arkansas Category Florida State

.274 Batting average .323

376 Runs 540

72 Home runs 88

340 Runs batted in 486

62 Stolen bases 93

4.56 Earned run average 4.55

.262 Opponent batting average .256

462 Strikeouts 455

.969 Fielding percentage .961



Super Regional Capsules

Arkansas Razorbacks

Coach: Dave Van Horn (7th season)

Overall Record: 37-22

Southeastern Conference Record: 14-15

Top Hitters: Andy Wilkins, sophomore 1B (.329, 49 R, 17 HR, 51 RBI); Ben Tschepikow, senior SS (.317, 48 R, 9 HR, 46 RBI, 16 SB); Scott Lyons, senior DH (.311, 35 R, 8 HR, 43 RBI); Chase Leavitt, senior OF (.306, 36 R, 30 RBI, 11 SB); Zack Cox, freshman 3B (.266, 36 R, 11 HR, 35 RBI)

Top Pitchers: Dallas Keuchel, junior LHP (7-3, 4.12 ERA, 62 Ks in 94 IP); Brett Eibner, sophomore RHP (5-4, 4.25 ERA, 62 Ks in 65.2 IP); Drew Smyly, freshman LHP (3-1, 4.72 ERA, 53 Ks in 53.1 IP); Stephen Richards, junior LHP (5-1, 1.09 ERA, 9 saves, 48 Ks in 33 IP); Mike Bolsinger, junior RHP (5-4, 3.09 ERA, 62 Ks in 55.1 IP)



Florida State Seminoles

Coach: Mike Martin (30th season)

Overall Record: 45-16

Atlantic Coast Conference Record: 19-9

Top Hitters: Tyler Holt, sophomore OF (.390, 83 R, 5 HR, 26 RBI, 33 SB); Stephen Cardullo, junior SS (.383, 75 R, 10 HR, 48 RBI, 20 SB); Mike McGee, sophomore OF (.377, 65 R, 18 HR, 75 RBI, 13 SB); Jason Stidham, junior 2B (.366, 55 R, 12 HR, 75 RBI); Stuart Tapley, sophomore 3B (.316, 46 R, 13 HR, 59 RBI)

Top Pitchers: Sean Gilmartin, freshman LHP (12-3, 3.48 ERA, 81 Ks in 93 IP); Brian Busch, freshman LHP (6-2, 4.04, 62 Ks in 84.2 IP); Mike McGee, sophomore RHP (6-2, 4.04, 72 Ks in 69 IP); Jimmy Marshall, senior RHP (3-2, 4.62 ERA, 10 saves, 39 Ks in 25.1 IP); Geoff Parker, sophomore RHP (6-1, 4.41 ERA, 63 Ks in 63.1 IP)

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