NORTH LITTLE ROCK - Second seasons might be cliche in sports but that might be the best way to describe the final three weeks of the regular season for the No. 12 Arkansas baseball program.
With the spring semester finished at the University of Arkansas, the Razorbacks are more loose and can focus more attention on the games.
"Now it's really baseball season," Arkansas junior first baseman Andy Wilkins. "We're coming down the home stretch here. We need to put together some quality wins and get ready for the postseason."
Fresh off a weekend series win at Ole Miss the Razorbacks (37-11) will continue their new season today with a match-up against Louisiana Tech in North Little Rock's Dickey-Stephens Park.
"We're excited about it. It was the perfect fit for us coming off the Ole Miss weekend and driving back through Little Rock," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. We're out of school, it's a beautiful ballpark and the weather is supposed to be nice. The guys are enjoying this. They're enjoying being out of school and they're pretty loose. Now the pressure of the weekend is off.
"We'll get to play in front of a lot of new fans that haven't got to see us play."
The Razorbacks haven't played in central Arkansas since beating Memphis at Little Rock's Ray Winder Field in 1986 - before any of the current players were born.
"I think it's kind of fun playing somewhere you don't get to play all the time and still being in the home state of Arkansas," Wilkins said. "This is my first time in Little Rock. This is an awesome park and it's been a great experience so far."
Freshman left-hander Randall Fant will get the start for Arkansas on a low pitch count as Van Horn tries to save as much pitching as he can for this weekend's SEC showdown with South Carolina in Fayetteville. Plenty of arms are available as the Razorbacks needed only seven pitchers over the weekend at Ole Miss, thanks in large part to long outings by Drew Smyly and SEC Pitcher of the Week Mike Bolsinger.
"For the most part we're ready to roll," Van Horn said. "Hopefully we can get several guys in the game and then have a couple of days off to get ready for South Carolina this weekend."
Louisiana Tech (25-22) enters the game on the heels of a four-game sweep of Sacramento State over the weekend in which the Bulldogs scored a combined 56 runs.
The Bulldogs played Minnesota earlier this season at Target Field in Minneapolis so it's unlikely they'll be fazed by the venue at Dickey-Stephens Park.
What will be different is the crowd size. The game in Minnesota was early in the season and the temperatures kept many patrons away. More than 10,000 are expected tonight in a game that officially sold out Monday.
"We recruit several kids from this area and some of the best Razorback fans are from down here," Van Horn said. "I know some of the fans that are going to be here are used to Baum Stadium and it's a nice place but sometimes it's nice to be able to leave the ballpark and drive home across town. If this works out in the future it could be a great situation."
New Season, New Venue for Arkansas
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