UA, UALR get 1st crack on diamond

By: Bob Holt
Published: Friday, October 12, 2018
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn returns to the dugout before the start of play against Wichita State Friday, Oct. 5, 2018, at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn returns to the dugout before the start of play against Wichita State Friday, Oct. 5, 2018, at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.

Technically, the Arkansas Razorbacks and UALR Trojans are playing an exhibition baseball game today.

But realistically, there's more to it than that.

At a glance

ARKANSAS AT UALR BASEBALL EXHIBITION

WHERE Gary Hogan Field, Little Rock

WHEN 4:30 p.m. today

TICKETS Sold out

FORMAT The teams will play a 9-inning game, take about a 10-minute break and play another 5 innings

STARTING PITCHERS Arkansas: Isaiah Campbell; UALR: Hayden Arnold

NOTEWORTHY RF Heston Kjerstad (flu) and 1B Jordan McFarland (mononucleosis) won’t play for Arkansas. SP Chandler Fidel (rest) and C Kale Emshoff (elbow soreness) won’t play for UALR.

"It's historic," said Chris Curry, the University of Arkansas-Little Rock coach. "You just feel a buzz in the air.

"It's absolutely huge for our program."

It's a pretty big deal for the Razorbacks as well considering the University of Arkansas previously had a long-standing policy of not scheduling in-state schools in any sport.

That changed with Arkansas' announcement on Aug. 29 that the Razorbacks will play UALR and the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville on April 2 and April 16, respectively.

The Razorbacks and Trojans are playing six months earlier than expected because Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn called Curry to see if he'd be interested in an exhibition game in Little Rock after the Hogs' exhibition at Oklahoma scheduled for Sept. 22 was rained out.

"The whole thing just kind of fell in our lap," Curry said. "Coach Van Horn called me after their rainout and said, 'What if we come down and play at your place?' " Curry said. "I said, 'I love it.' "

The game will start at 4:30 p.m. at UALR's Gary Hogan Field.

Curry said tickets quickly sold out and he expects a capacity crowd of about 1,100.

"It'll be full from foul pole to foul pole and have an electric atmosphere," Curry said. "I think you have a lot of people who just want to be part of it and say they were there.

"It's wonderful for us, because there are more people talking about Little Rock baseball than ever have before."

Curry, an Arkansas assistant coach for Van Horn in 2009-10, praised his former boss for opening the door for UALR to play the Razorbacks today and during the season.

"We're so appreciative, and Coach Van Horn deserves the credit for all of this," Curry said. "He's the one that's been pushing for this to happen."

Van Horn said he believes scheduling UALR and UAPB -- the Arkansas administration is limiting in-state competition to schools within the UA system -- will help promote baseball in Arkansas.

"I really want to grow baseball in the state of Arkansas," Van Horn said. "I think it's grown by leaps and bounds over the last 10 years. I truly believe baseball is more popular now in the state than it ever has been -- by a lot.

"We've been able to recruit more in-state kids over the last few years. Even some of the kids in the future classes two and three and four years down the road. We know about them and we're excited that some of them will play at Arkansas.

"Some kids will play at other schools in the state. That's good for everyone."

Van Horn, whose Razorbacks beat Wichita State 10-1 in an exhibition game last Friday night at Baum Stadium, said he had no hesitation about playing at UALR today.

"I really want the new players in our program to experience playing on the road," Van Horn said. "The travel and playing in a different environment. I think it's important for this team."

It will be the Trojans' first exhibition game. They'll play their second Oct. 27 at Ole Miss.

Curry said the Trojans won't be in awe of Arkansas, but they're excited to play the team that finished second at the College World Series to Oregon State last season.

"Our players are fired up," he said. "Not just because this isn't another intrasquad game where the only people in the stands are some girlfriends and grandparents, but we're playing Arkansas.

"We get to measure ourselves against the national runner-up team. So any areas where we need to get better, I expect we'll be exposed.

"Being able to play that speed of the game, seeing that caliber of pitching, that caliber of hitter, it'll make us better."

Sports on 10/12/2018

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