Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Charlottesville Regional Report:
Razorbacks’ injured are on the mend
Arkansas third baseman Bobby Wernes makes a throw during a SEC Tournament game against Texas A&M on Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Ala.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said Friday his team's health has improved significantly since its stretch of eight games in 10 days that ended with some key players resting last week at the SEC Tournament.
Van Horn said senior catcher and team captain Jake Wise (hand) looked to be ready to play, outfielder Andrew Benintendi (quadricep) is nearly 100 percent and third baseman Bobby Wernes (back) is good to go.
Wise hasn't played since injuring a bone on the top of his right hand May 17 at Missouri. Freshman Alex Gosser, who came off a redshirt situation to fill in for Wise, has hit .273 in seven games at catcher.
Look at Lambert
The Razorbacks were complimentary of Liberty starter Trey Lambert (11-2, 2.10 ERA), the Big South pitcher of the year who beat South Carolina and Georgia last season and dealt Clemson a 3-1 loss in an NCAA regional game.
Lambert, a senior right-hander, will start today against the Hogs.
"He throws nothing but strikes," Dave Van Horn said. "He's a four-pitch mix guy and throws four pitches for a strike. He got a lot of experience as junior last year in this situation. ... The guy can pitch. He's a veteran, and he's not going to be intimidated. It's going to be a tough match for us."
Jacob Stone, who took over the closer role earlier this month, takes a 4-0 record and 0.99 earned run average into the regional.
Stone earned two saves in the SEC Tournament when he combined for 2 2/3 scoreless innings in two one-run victories over Ole Miss.
"To come in there and face a great team like Ole Miss is really big for my confidence, that I can come in and get the job done," Stone said.
Stone is throwing from a sidearm slot after being over-the-top in the fall.
"I was having a little tender soreness in my shoulder, so I dropped down and loosened it up a little bit and it's become really effective," he said. "All my pitches are working really well."
Arkansas is 2-0 all-time against the rest of the regional field, with victories over Bucknell and Virginia. The Razorbacks have never played Liberty.
Arkansas' 4-3 victory over Virginia came in the 2009 College World Series. Arkansas' Brett Eibner hit a two-run home run with two outs in the top of the ninth to tie the game, and Andrew Darr doubled in Jarrod McKinney for the game winner in the 12th.
Virginia (54-22-1) is 32-20-1 vs. Liberty, 22-1 vs. Bucknell and 0-1 vs. Arkansas.
Liberty (26-33-1) is 20-32-1 vs. Virginia and 6-1 vs. Bucknell.
Bucknell (2-29) is 1-22 vs. Virginia, 1-6 vs. Liberty and 0-1 for Arkansas.
Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said the Charlottesville Regional was probably the third-most likely destination for the Hogs in his view, behind regionals hosted by Oklahoma State and TCU, and about on par with the Louisiana-Lafayette regional.
Arkansas' players were hoping for somewhere closer to home.
"It's not like you're going to Oklahoma State or TCU, like some of us wanted to, because it's a little bit closer," first baseman Eric Fisher said. "Virginia, yeah, it's a ways out there, but we don't care where we're going."
High on Cavs
Dave Van Horn, speaking about regional host Virginia, recalled the Cavaliers were No. 1 in some preseason polls.
"They always seem to have a good pitching staff and a good defense," he said. "This year, what kicked them so high up in the polls is they were supposed to be very offensive. ... Just from what I've heard and read, they're just a complete type team."
Liberty opened a new baseball park called Liberty Baseball Stadium in 2013, which features chair-back seating for 2,500 and four indoor batting tunnels, baseball offices, luxury suites, a weight room, a team room and other details found in bigger college parks.
"It's probably one of the top five maybe in the country," said Liberty Coach Jim Toman, who credited Athletic Director Jim Barber and benefactor Jerry Falwell Jr., with getting it built.
"We kind of patterned it after South Carolina," Toman said. "We pretty much went down there and did everything that they have on a little bit smaller scale, but we did the AstroTurf and it looks really good year around."
Sports on 05/30/2014