FAYETTEVILLE – Just two days before the start of the 2010 season, Arkansas got a final scrimmage in Wednesday at Baum Stadium.
The No. 17 Razorbacks host Ball State for a three-game series this weekend. Practicing outside for just the fourth time this preseason, Wednesday presented an opportunity for hitters to work against the bullpen.
"Today was more about getting out here and seeing some live pitching," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "We used four of our pitchers that needed to throw and three of them were lefties. We needed to face some lefties and get a few live at-bats.
"I think you can see we're still a little rusty at live pitching. Hopefully we can get it going this weekend."
Van Horn said the last week is full of nerves for coaches.
"As a coach you always worry about how your team is going to play opening weekend," Van Horn said. "We are concerned about how much time we've had outside but I also know our opponent hasn't had much time, if any. They do have good workout facilities to work in. We just feel good about getting out here today, a little bit yesterday in the cold and we'll be out here a little bit tomorrow. It's about making sure nobody gets hurt, doing little things right and finalizing a few things."
It's a week full of anticipation for players. Sophomore third baseman Zack Cox said he's ready to see someone else.
"This is probably one of the most exciting weeks we have because of the anticipation of getting out there and playing a team other than the one on your own jersey," Cox said. "It's exciting and the adrenaline is already going."
Snow and ice has kept the team indoors for much of the preseason. Still, the field was in pristine condition as the final cosmetic touches were put in place for the start of Baum Stadium's 15th season.
"Our groundscrew has done a great job," Van Horn said. "They worked extra hard late last week to get the snow off the field so we could get out here Saturday and scrimmage, and I think it really helped us.
"They had it in great shape before all the bad weather hit so that helped."
Cox said the field is playing well.
"You wouldn't think this thing was covered with snow for an entire month," Cox said. "It's been great. I've been jacked up and adrenaline pumping just to get out on the field. Once we got out here we just let it loose.
"The practices have been upbeat and up-tempo. Everybody is pumped up and excited."
Being inside for so long has helped add a little urgency to practice, Cox said.
"When you haven't been outside and get to go outside, it's a privilege," Cox said. "We definitely feel fortunate to get out here."
Arkansas was picked to finish second in the SEC West as the league coaches poll was released Wednesday.
Defending national champion LSU received eight first-place votes in the western division while the Razorbacks received four. The Tigers were also picked to finish as the overall league champion with five first-place votes, followed by projected SEC East champion Florida with four first-place votes and Arkansas with three.
"We have tremendous depth in the SEC and I think the coaches' votes prove that," Van Horn said. "If you look at the preseason top 25 rankings, there are five or six (SEC) teams represented in all of them. Regardless of rankings, every conference opponent is tough and teams sitting at the bottom of these preseason polls are just as good as the teams at the top."
Arkansas and LSU represented the SEC in the 2009 College World Series. The two teams are followed in the preseason poll by Ole Miss, Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State.
Florida received nine first-place votes to win the eastern division, followed by South Carolina with two votes. Vanderbilt received one first-place vote, but finished fourth in the preseason poll behind Georgia.
If you want to watch Arkansas' first game in central Arkansas in more than two decades, you better get your tickets quick.
Chair back seats at Dickey-Stephens Park are sold out for the Hogs' May 11 game against Louisiana Tech, the university announced Wednesday, though outfield seats still remain.
"We are very excited about the opportunity to play at Dickey-Stephens Park in front of Razorback fans from all over the state," Van Horn said in a release. "The response for advance tickets has been tremendous and we are looking forward to playing in front of a full house this May."
Arkansas hasn't played in central Arkansas since 1986 and has never played in Dickey-Stephens Park, which is home to the minor league Arkansas Travelers.
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