Arkansas wel­comes fa­mil­iar foe for mid­week game

The Sentinel-Record - - SPORTS - NATE ALLEN

FAYET­TEVILLE — An­nual nearby base­ball ri­vals Arkansas and Mis­souri State will re­new their ri­valry tonight at Baum Sta­dium.

Arkansas topped Mis­souri State in a

2015 Su­per Re­gional that was sup­posed to be held in Spring­field, Mo. The Bears were un­able to host the se­ries be­cause of a Dou­ble-A base­ball game tak­ing place at their sta­dium.

Mis­souri State was matched up with Arkansas again in 2017 in the Ra­zor­backs’ first Fayet­teville Re­gional since

2010. The Bears elim­i­nated Arkansas be­fore los­ing to TCU in Fort Worth in the Su­per Re­gional.

Coach Dave Van Horn’s Ra­zor­backs

(27-10, 10-5 South­east­ern Con­fer­ence) are ranked third in the lat­est Divi­sion1. com poll re­leased on Mon­day. They will face the Bears (22-10, 5-1 Mis­souri Val­ley Con­fer­ence) at 6:30 p.m. on the Ra­zor­backs’ ra­dio net­work and over in­ter­net video on SEC Net­work+ or ESPN3.

“There’s been some re­ally good games over the years,” Van Horn said be­fore the Ra­zor­backs prac­ticed Mon­day. “And once you get to post­sea­son, we’ve had some great games. It just seems like ev­ery time we play them, it’s a bat­tle.”

A bat­tle with one de­fec­tor. Nate Thomp­son, Mis­souri State coach Keith Gut­tin’s hit­ting coach the past three sea­sons, be­came Van Horn’s hit­ting coach and third base coach last sum­mer. Thomp­son re­placed Tony Vitello, who left to be­come the head coach at Ten­nessee. He was asked if he would find it strange work­ing against Gut­tin in­stead of for him.

“Yeah, a lit­tle dif­fer­ent, sure,” Thomp­son said. “But other than that, no. I still have a lot of friends over there, but it’s just an­other qual­ity base­ball game against a qual­ity op­po­nent. Just two re­ally qual­ity pro­grams get­ting af­ter it and lov­ing to play in front of a pas­sion­ate fan base.”

Van Horn said it is dif­fi­cult to play a pre­vi­ous team. He was Ne­braska’s coach for the Corn­huskers’ only two trips to the Col­lege World Se­ries be­fore re­turn­ing to coach his alma mater in Fayet­teville.

“Es­pe­cially when you know guys on the team, it makes it a lit­tle more dif­fi­cult,” Van Horn said. “And, ob­vi­ously, he knows prob­a­bly just about ev­ery player on the team. I think his emo­tions will be up and down a lit­tle bit.

“A lot of times, you feel a lit­tle guilty when you leave a team and there’s guys you re­cruited play­ing for an­other team. I think they un­der­stand. It was a move for him that was re­ally good for his fam­ily. I think he’ll just be pro­fes­sional and go out and do his job and shake a lot of hands and hug a few kids af­ter the game.”

Thomp­son can pro­vide some in­put to Arkansas about the Bears he coached and ob­served. But as Van Horn noted, the two teams al­ready are quite fa­mil­iar with each other.

Both teams still have to pre­pare for up­com­ing con­fer­ence con­tests. Arkansas will visit SEC ri­val Mis­sis­sippi State (19-18, 5-10) for a week­end se­ries be­gin­ning on Fri­day. The Bears will host MVC ri­val Illi­nois State (14-17, 4-5) Fri­day through Sun­day.

Arkansas is sched­uled to start fresh-

man right-han­der Caleb Bold- en (3-0), who has be­come the Ra­zor­backs’ reg­u­lar mid­week starter with a 2.81 ERA. Lefty Matt Cronin moved to nine saves with a pair of clos­ings on Satur­day as Arkansas shut out South Carolina (20-16, 6-9) in two seven-in­ning games, but the Hogs should have a to­tally fresh bullpen avail­able oth­er­wise.

Mis­souri State is an­tic­i­pated to start one of two righthanders. Se­nior Austin Knight (1-0) has a 4.97 ERA and pitched against Arkansas in last year’s Fayet­teville Re­gional. Fresh­man Lo­gan Wi­ley (4-3) has an ERA of 5.12.

Three Bears fa­mil­iar to Arkansas from last year’s re­gional, sopho­more catcher Drew Mil­las, ju­nior short­stop Jeremy Eier­man and ju­nior cen­ter fielder Hunter Stein­metz, lead them in hit­ting at .316, .311 and .302, re­spec­tively..

Red­shirt se­nior sec­ond base­man Car­son Shaddy leads the Ra­zor­backs, bat­ting .368. He also leads the team with nine home runs af­ter hit­ting two more on Satur­day against South Carolina.

Fourth-year ju­nior pitcher Keaton McK­in­ney missed last sea­son with hip and arm in­juries and could be done for the sea­son again af­ter pitch­ing just two in­nings dur­ing the Ra­zor­backs’ sea­son-open­ing se­ries against Buck­nell in Fe­bru­ary.

“Keaton may be not avail­able for a long time,” Van Horn said. “It’s noth­ing ma­jor, but it’s enough to keep him out maybe the rest of the sea­son and get ready for next year.”

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