Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A two-time graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Biletnikoff Award.
Ficociello to start vs. Rebels right-hander
Arkansas second baseman Dominic Ficociello watches from the dugout during the Razorbacks' 3-1 loss to Arizona State on Saturday.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas second baseman Dominic Ficociello will start when the Razorbacks host No. 6 Ole Miss on Friday at Baum Stadium.
Ficociello has been feeling the effects of an oblique injury suffered in the preseason and wasn't expected to be in the starting lineup for Arkansas' Southeastern Conference opener. The switch-hitter has been able to hit from the right side, but has been unable to bat from his left-handed stance to this point in the season.
The Rebels (18-1) are slated to throw three right-handed starters in the series at Baum Stadium. That includes preseason all-American Bobby Wahl (4-0, 1.99 earned run average) in tonight's 6:35 p.m. opener.
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn had said Wednesday that Ficociello wasn't likely to start.
"We can change our mind, but I don't know," Van Horn said. "I think there are other guys playing well that for us to put him in against a right-hander with real good stuff, and breaking balls that are down against his right-handed swing that he's not used to, we'd be better off going the other way and with other guys who are healthy."
No. 15 Arkansas (13-5) vs. No. 6 Ole Miss (18-1)
WHEN: 6:35 p.m.
WHERE: Baum Stadium in Fayetteville
PITCHING MATCHUP: Ole Miss RHP Bobby Wahl (4-0, 1.99 ERA) vs. Arkansas RHP Trey Killian (1-1, 0.86)
Ficociello, a junior who led the Razorbacks in batting average two years ago, has played in only four games this season, starting each time against a left-handed pitcher. He is batting .267 this season in 15 plate appearances, recording 3 RBIs.
He started Arkansas' 20-2 win over Alabama A&M on Tuesday and even faced a right-handed relief pitcher, recording a sacrifice fly in the at-bat. The California native said it was the first time he's batted right-on-right since his freshman year of high school.
"I think I'm just a little bit off still, but overall it was real good to be back," Ficociello said. "I felt comfortable. Even the right on right at-bats, something I haven't done in a while, it wasn't as bad as I thought.
"It's not something I want to rush because I don't want it to linger the entire year. I think I rushed it in Arizona (two weeks ago), so it kind of set me back a little longer than it needed to."
The Razorbacks (13-5) have won six straight games, including two by a combined score of 33-2 over Alabama A&M in the midweek. Arkansas recorded a combined 32 hits in the games, playing a mix of routine starters and backups.
Van Horn said Wednesday he would consider tweaking the lineup based on performances during the win streak. Sophomore Michael Gunn will start Friday in the designated hitter spot, while normal second baseman Jacob Mahan will play third base, allowing third baseman Brian Anderson to move to left field.
"We're going to try to put a pretty good defensive team on the field," Van Horn said, "but also one that will make some contact and get hits against a pretty good pitcher."
Outfielder Matt Vinson, who sprained his glove wrist diving for a ball last Thursday, will also start the SEC opener. Vinson started Wednesday's game, recording two hits.