Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double 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 Heisman Trophy.
Josenberger adds 'spark' in first game since April 22
Arkansas center fielder Tavian Josenberger heads to the dugout Friday, May 12, 2023, before the start of play against South Carolina at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas center fielder Tavian Josenberger returned to the lineup Friday as the third-ranked Razorbacks defeated No. 7 South Carolina 4-1.
Batting leadoff, Josenberger went 1 for 2 and drew 2 walks while playing his first game since April 22 at Georgia. Josenberger also caught three fly outs and moved well in center field.
“I feel like he brought a spark,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said.
Josenberger was greeted with a loud ovation from the announced crowd of 10,218 when he came to the plate in the first inning.
“I’m just blessed,” Josenberger said. “I’m blessed to be here, blessed to be healthy, blessed to be able to play. The fans gave me a nice ovation. It was great to be back.”
Van Horn said Josenberger is 100% healthy from the hamstring injury that caused him to miss eight games. He started 38 of the Razorbacks’ 40 games prior to his injury.
“If the trainer told me [Josenberger was 90% healthy] I wasn’t going to play him, because it’s not worth it,” Van Horn said.
Josenberger spent multiple hours daily working with training and strength staff during the weeks between starts.
“I’d come in, be in the training room for about two hours and then I’d be out with the strength coach moving around for another hour [to] hour and a half,” Josenberger said. “It was a grind every day, but kudos to them. I wouldn’t be back and I wouldn’t be playing this weekend if it weren’t for them.”
Josenberger struck out in three pitches his first at-bat against South Carolina right-hander Eli Jones, but reached base in his final three plate appearances. It was the type of performance that reminded of his value.
He has a .324 batting average and .440 on-base percentage. His 40 runs are third most on the team and he leads the team in stolen bases (9) and attempts (12).
“He didn't score a run, but he was he was eating up some pitches and he got on base,” Van Horn said.
Josenberger drew walks in the third and seventh innings that brought Kendall Diggs to the plate with multiple base runners. Diggs singled in both innings to account for 3 RBI.
Josenberger is the second key player to return from injury in the past two weeks for the Razorbacks (37-12, 18-7 SEC). Right-handed pitcher Brady Tygart returned to action April 28 against Texas A&M after missing 58 days with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow.
Arkansas left fielder Jared Wegner is expected to be well enough to return to the lineup next week at Vanderbilt. Wegner, who had his left thumb surgically repaired after breaking it during a game April 11, is on the 27-man roster this weekend, but is unlikely to play, Van Horn said.
Welcoming players back into the fold has been a nice turn of events for the Razorbacks, who have received bad injury news many times since the preseason.
“We’ve been waiting for this day,” Diggs said. “I don’t know if you could tell, but everyone had a little pep in their step. That’s just what he brings and it was really good to see him back out there.”
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