Schmidt to start; coaches talk about the SEC

Nick Schmidt, perhaps the SEC's best pitcher, will start for the Razorbacks. Will Kline heads to the hill for Ole Miss. The SEC head coaches talk about how difficult playing in the league is every weekend.

There'd been some rumors that Dave Van Horn might start somebody other than Nick Schmidt Wednesday night in Hoover, Ala. Not going to happen, according to Van Horn today.

The 6-foot-5, 220-pound sophomore left-hander from St. Louis, considered by some to be the SEC's best pitcher, is 9-2 with an ERA of 2.81 in 15 starts and one complete game. He's struck out 130 and walked 44. He's pitched 102.2 innings this season, almost twice as many as the next Razorback in that category, Shaun Seibert with 55.1 innings pitched.

Schmidt, named today as SEC Pitcher of the Week for the final regular season weekend, went eight innings last Thursday night against Auburn in a 6-3 Razorback win, striking out a career-high 15 Tigers and walking just one. It was for his seventh double-digit strikeout performance of the season. He leads the league in strikeouts in SEC games with 98. Schmidt is second in the conference with 130 strikeouts in all games.

"We'll go with the same rotation," Van Horn said this morning. "Nick will start on Wednesday night against Ole Miss."

Schmidt went seven innings in the Razorback's 12-3 win over Ole Miss in game one of the series in Oxford weekend before last, allowing only two runs with 11 strikeouts.

On paper it looks to be a pitcher's battle in that big ballpark in Hoover as Ole Miss runs Will Kline out to the mound.

"He's been our ace lately as a reliever and a starter," Mike Bianco said this morning. "He's arguably been our best guy since the Mississippi State game in Jackson that we won 1-0 when he started. He's been awfully impressive in relief, and we decided to start him in the series against Mississippi State last Thursday. He was impressive again."

Kline, 6-3, 215, sophomore from Tupelo, has certainly been one of the biggest stories for the Rebels this season. The righty has a 3.06 ERA with a 3-2 record in 17 appearances but only three starts in 47 innings along with two saves.

Bianco said the other two Rebel starters in order this week will remain the same as last weekend – freshman LHP Brett Bukvich in game two and freshman RHP Lance Lynn in (hopefully) game three.

Van Horn says his hitters will not only have to deal with Kline but will face some tough defenders as well on Wednesday night.

"Ole Miss may have the best defensive team in the league," he said. "Coghlan, Cozart, I really like all those guys. They're a great defensive infield, and they make it tough on you."

Bianco and Van Horn each were able to get in a plug for hosting an NCAA Regional next week. While Arkansas is one game ahead in the standings, the Rebels beat the Razorbacks two of three games in the regular season.

Many feel that Kentucky, Alabama, and probably Georgia have locked up host sites with the winner of the Arkansas-Ole Miss game perhaps moving ahead in the race for a fourth host spot.

It's also widely thought the SEC will get four host sites but possibly five. That makes the UM-UA game loom even larger.

"We averaged more than 8,000 fans for our three games with Auburn this past weekend (a Razorback sweep of the Tigers)," Van Horn said. "We're a game ahead of Ole Miss in the standings, but they won two of three there. I would think you have to consider the fact that even though we lost the series, it was on the road. In this league, it's tough to win a series on the road."

Bianco said he felt like Wednesday night's game is indeed important for the Rebels if they want to make one more statement to impress the NCAA committee.

"I don't get a vote, and it's up to the committee," he said. "But we're two teams that are right there together. They're one up on us, and we won two of three with them. Beating them Wednesday would give us three of four against them and improve our resume'. I would hope we could both host, but of course our only concern right now is winning the game Wednesday night."

Bianco reiterated how strong and competitive from top to bottom the SEC has become in baseball.

"There are two teams (Mississippi State, Florida) who were ranked No. 1 in the country at some point this season, and they aren't in the eight-team field," he said. "That says a lot about how tough this league is."

Other coaches on the SEC teleconference this morning agreed.

"This league will get you if you're not at your best," said South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner, whose team finished the SEC regular season as the seventh seed at 15-15 after starting conference play 11-4. "That's what happened to us some lately. So many teams can get you now. It's not just two or three teams. It's all of them. You don't back into this tournament. You win enough games at some point in your season to get in."

"It's a big relief for us just to get here," said Vanderbilt's Tim Corbin, whose Commodores are the sixth seed at 16-14 in SEC play. " We didn't make it last year, so we're happy to be in. I was in the ACC (as a Clemson assistant) before coming here, and I didn't know just how tough it would be. You feel like there might be a weekend that if you are not be at your best or don't happen to play well you can still win. That isn't the case in this league."

The Rebels' scheduled practice time at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium is Tuesday from 3:50 to 4:50 p.m.

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