Diamond Hogs Host Crimson Tide in SEC West Showdown

Game 47: #6 Alabama at #14 Arkansas

Friday, May 5, 7:05 p.m. – Baum Stadium

Probable Starting Pitchers

AR: 33 Nick Schmidt, LHP (7-2, 2.68 ERA)

UA: 23 Wade LeBlanc, LHP (7-0, 2.92 ERA)

Game 48: #6 Alabama at #14 Arkansas

Saturday, May 6, 4:05 p.m. – Baum Stadium

Probable Starting Pitchers

AR: 28 Daryl Maday, RHP (0-0, 2.21 ERA)

UA: 45 Bernard Robert, RHP (6-3, 4.00 ERA)

Game 49: #6 Alabama at #14 Arkansas

Sunday, May 7, 12:35 p.m. – Baum Stadium

Probable Starting Pitchers

AR: 34 Shaun Seibert, RHP (3-0, 2.76 ERA)

UA: 33 Tommy Hunter, RHP (7-2, 3.17 ERA)

Diamond Hogs Host Crimson Tide in SEC West Showdown

No. 14 Arkansas looks to get back on track this weekend with a three-game SEC series against No. 6 Alabama at Baum Stadium. Game times are set for 7:05 p.m. on Friday, 4:05 p.m. on Saturday and 12:35 p.m. Sunday.

It is the fifth annual Razorback Baseball Alumni and Diamond Doll Reunion at the ballpark this weekend. The event is highlighted by the 5th Annual Razorback Baseball Alumni Softball game, which immediately follows Saturday’s game.

The Hogs boast a 31-15 overall record and 11-10 mark in Southeastern Conference action. Alabama is 34-13 overall and leads the SEC with a 15-6 record. The Crimson Tide is two games ahead of Ole Miss in the SEC’s Western Division and four games in front of Arkansas.

The Razorback Baseball Radio Network will carry the game with Chuck Barrett and Rick Schaeffer calling the action. A live video webcast and live audio broadcast of all three games are available inside the RazorZone at Hogwired.com. Live stats can also be found on Hogwired.com.

The pitching matchups have been set with two of the best left-handed pitchers in the country facing off on Friday night. Nick Schmidt (7-2, 2.68 ERA) takes the mound for the Hogs opposite UA’s Wade LeBlanc (7-0, 2.92). Schmidt’s 97 strikeouts rank second in the SEC while LeBlanc is fourth with 84.

On Saturday, Daryl Maday (0-0, 2.21) makes his second start of the season for the Razorbacks, and his first in SEC play. The Crimson Tide will counter with right-hander Bernard Robert (6-3, 4.00 ERA).

The series finale will pit Arkansas right-hander Shaun Seibert (3-0, 2.76 ERA) against Alabama’s freshman right-hander Tommy Hunter (7-2, 3.17 ERA).

Alabama leads the all-time series 30-15, but the Razorbacks have won the last two series from the Crimson Tide. Last year’s series win in Tuscaloosa was the first for Arkansas since 1995 and the win on Friday night snapped a 12-game losing streak at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Alabama then eliminated Arkansas in last year’s SEC Tournament. The Hogs won the 2004 series with wins on Saturday and Sunday.

Scouting the Crimson Tide

Alabama enters this weekend’s series ranked sixth in the country by Baseball America and leading the SEC with a 15-6 conference record. The Crimson Tide has a two-game lead in the SEC West on Ole Miss and a four-game lead on the Hogs.

The Crimson Tide offense has flourished during SEC play this season with a league-best .322 batting average. Overall the Tide his hitting .299 on the season and scoring 6.8 runs per game. Leadoff man Emeel Salem is Alabama’s top hitter at .382 for the season and .402 in league play. He also leads the SEC with 26 stolen bases in 33 attempts. Kody Valverde provides the power in the lineup with 10 home runs and 46 RBI. Matt Downs and Evan Bush have driven in 45 and 42 RBI, respectively.

The pitching staff is led by junior ace Wade LeBlanc. He is 7-0 on the season with a 2.92 ERA in 89.1 innings of work. LeBlanc has struck out 84 and walked 25 with opponents hitting just .207. The Tide staff has been very consistent throughout the season with Bernard Robert throwing on Saturday and freshman Tommy Hunter on Sunday. Robert is 6-3 this season with a 4.00 ERA while Hunter is 7-2 with a 3.17 ERA. Alabama’s bullpen has been almost as good as its starting rotation. Jake McCarter has the team’s best ERA at 2.24 and is 6-0 in 15 appearances. David Robertson is the Crimson Tide’s closer with seven saves in 21 appearances. He has struck out 48 and walked 20 in 37 innings of work. Opponents are hitting just .183.

The Series: Alabama leads the all-time series 30-15 after a 5-4 win in the 2005 SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala. Arkansas has captured the last two regular-season series, including their first series win in Tuscaloosa last year since 1995. The Crimson Tide hold a slight 12-9 edge in the series in Fayetteville.

A Look at the Razorbacks’ Rotation

Friday – Nick Schmidt, LHP (7-2, 2.68 ERA) – Schmidt had a tough time in the smaller confines of Alex Box Stadium last week. He allowed a career-high six earned runs on four hits, while tying his career high with five walks. Schmidt picked up his seventh win of the season two weeks ago at Mississippi State. The big left-hander allowed just one run on eight hits while striking out eight. He won his sixth game of the season at Vanderbilt, working eight innings. Schmidt struck out 10 against the Commodores for his fourth straight double-digit strike out performance. He had tossed his first complete game of the year the week prior against Tennessee and struck out 11. He has five wins over ranked opponents this season (TCU, Hawai’i, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State). Schmidt didn’t allow a hit until his third start of the season against Louisiana Tech on Feb. 24. He tossed 13.2 hitless innings to open the season. Opposing hitters are now hitting an SEC-best .197 off Schmidt in 80.1 innings.

Saturday – Daryl Maday, RHP (0-0, 2.21 ERA) – Maday is making his second start of the season and his first in SEC play. He does not have a decision in 14 appearances but does have five saves. Maday has worked 20.1 innings and allowed five earned runs while striking out 17 and walking seven. He pitched four innings in his one start this season and did not allow a hit and struck out three against Northern Colorado. Maday earned a start this weekend after getting Trey Holloway out of trouble in the first inning last Saturday and working 4.1 innings and not allowing an earned run.

Sunday – Shaun Seibert (3-0, 2.76 ERA) – Seibert will make his seventh start of the season on Sunday. He is coming off of a short outing at LSU last weekend. Seibert has improved to 3-0 a week earlier at Mississippi State, where worked six innings and allowed just two run on six hits. He was even better in a five-inning start at Missouri State on Tuesday, April 11. Seibert allowed just one unearned run on three hits while striking out five. The sophomore from Edwardsville, Ill., is 3-0 on the season with a 2.47 ERA. He has made 12 appearances this season and pitched 40 innings with 42 strikeouts and just nine walks. Seibert made starts against Louisiana Tech and Texas-Arlington in Hawai’i. He did not allow a run to Louisiana Tech and just two runs to UTA. He pitched five innings in both starts.

Tough Losses in League Play

Arkansas has lost 10 games in SEC play this season with seven of those losses coming by two runs or less. The Hogs have lost five games in league action by just one run. UA has dropped two more games by two runs and one game by three runs. Only two of the Razorbacks’ losses in SEC action are by more than three runs this season. Two of those one-run losses have been on walk-off home runs in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The Butler Connection

Arkansas assistant coach Todd Butler will see a lot of familiar faces in the visitor’s dugout this weekend. Butler joined the Razorbacks staff on July 1, 2005, after spending the 2004 and 2005 seasons on the Crimson Tide’s staff. It was the second stint in Tuscaloosa for Butler, who also served as an Alabama assistant under head coach Jim Wells from 1995-2000.

He then took the head coaching job at his alma mater, McNeese State, in 2001 and coached the Cowboys for three seasons. He led McNeese State to the NCAA Tournament in 2003 before heading back to Alabama as an assistant in 2004.

Butler was also responsible to bringing the Crimson Tide’s Friday night pitcher, Wade LeBlanc, into the fold at Alabama in 2004. Leblanc had committed to Butler at McNeese State and then followed him to Tuscaloosa.

Hog Bats Sluggish on SEC-Friday Nights

Arkansas has struggled at the plate on Friday nights during SEC play this season. The Razorbacks’ lineup is batting an anemic .211 while averaging just 4.3 runs per game. That stretch includes losses to Florida (6-3), Georgia (2-0), Vanderbilt (7-1) and LSU. The Hogs best Friday nights of the season came against Tennessee (6-1 win) and Kentucky (10-9 win). Vanderbilt’s David Price baffled the Razorbacks’ lineup, holding Arkansas to three hits over eight innings and struck out 17.

Hogs Battling Injuries Once Again

The Hogs’ training room has looked like a MASH unit over the past couple of weeks. Ben Tschepikow and James Ewing have left the chores at second base up to outfielder Stephen Robison and freshman Logan Forsythe. Centerfielder Craig Gentry is still hobbled by minor knee injuries and is not slated to play on Tuesday.

Ewing returned to the lineup at LSU after missing 22 starts. Tschepikow underwent back surgery on Thursday, March 30. Forstyhe and Chris Hollensworth should return to the lineup after missing the Mississippi State series with food poisoning.

Josh Smith will also miss the entire season after undergoing back surgery this spring and John Henry Marquardt is finished for the season after rupturing his ACL in early March. RHP Justin White has retired from baseball after suffering numerous elbow and shoulder injuries over the past two seasons.

Hamblin Putting Together Banner Year

Arkansas junior first baseman Danny Hamblin is putting together one of the most complete seasons in the SEC. He is second in the league with 59 RBI. Hamblin also ranks tied for third in home runs (14) and in seventh in total bases (105). The slugging first baseman now has 19 multiple-RBI games this season.

His 32 career home runs are tied for eighth in school history with Troy Eklund. Hamblin’s 150 career RBI is one shy of moving into the top 10 in school history. Jack Welsh and Kenderick Moore are tied for 10th with 151 career RBI.

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