Arkansas Plans To Bounce Back Against Aztecs, But May Play Without Ficociello


FAYETTEVILLE – The Arkansas baseball team has a chance to bounce back from a four-game skid in Surprise, Ariz. with a four-game home stand this weekend. But the 16th-ranked Razorbacks could be without one of their best hitters again.

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said second baseman Dominic Ficociello is still unable to hit from the left side because of a strained oblique he suffered in the preseason. Consequently, the junior switch-hitter may not see much playing time this weekend because the Razorbacks' opponent, San Diego State, has announced it will throw three right-handed pitchers with the fourth starter to be announced.

Still, Ficociello said he can do a few different things if his number is called.

"I tried swinging it left-handed (Tuesday) and it felt better,” Ficociello said. “But it didn't feel 100 percent yet, so we'll see how that goes as the weekend progresses.

“As of right now, I'm good to go in the field, run the bases and hit right-handed. Those are the for sure things."

Ficociello led Arkansas (7-5) with a .335 batting average his freshman season and hit .290 last year. He made his first start against Arizona State a week ago and had a base hit in each of his first two at bats. He was 3-for-10 in three starts in Arizona.

"It felt good," Ficociello said. "It didn't seem like it was anything new to me. I just went up there wanting to be aggressive, stay aggressive in the zone and not swing out of the strike zone. It worked out and I feel pretty good right-handed."

The Aztecs (7-5) will start Michael Cederoth in the first game. Van Horn said Cederoth (1-1, 2.60 ERA) is one of a few pitchers that will bring a lot of velocity.

"Just looking at their pitching numbers, they're outstanding," Van Horn said. "We're going to see two to three SEC weekend starters as far as talent goes. (Cederoth) can throw anywhere from 94 to 97 miles per hour, pretty much every pitch. Friday's starter is going to go 92 to 94 and can really pitch and doesn't really have an ERA."

Arkansas will mix up its starting rotation against the Aztecs. The Razorbacks will start freshman left-hander Colin Poche, who has a 0.00 ERA in 7 1/3 innings pitched, against the Aztecs Thursday.

"He was like 'Man I got to get in my zone,'" Arkansas reliever Brandon Moore said of Poche. "So I think he's pretty excited about it and I'm happy for him. I think he'll go out there, throw strikes and be successful."

Arkansas will start right-hander Ryne Stanek on Friday and right-hander Trey Killian on Saturday. Southpaw Randall Fant will make his second start Sunday.

After making three starts in as many weekends, junior right-hander Barrett Astin will move to the bullpen. Last season, Astin led the Razorbacks with 11 saves and made 29 of his 32 appearances as a reliever.

"He's a good pitcher, so wherever he is in the rotation is going to help us and I know he's cool with whatever he's doing," Moore said.

The first pitch of the four-game series is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. Thursday.

"It's good to be back," Van Horn said. "Last weekend was an incredible learning experience for the entire team and probably the coaches as well. We learned a lot about the team and what we need to work on. It's better for that to happen in non-conference than to go on the road and get whipped in league play when you haven't been on the road.

"We're confident we can turn it around, but when you face a team like San Diego State you have to elevate your game."

WEEKEND TICKET

San Diego State (7-5) at No. 16 Arkansas (7-5)

When: Tonight at 6:05 p.m., Friday at 3:05 p.m., Saturday at 11:35 p.m., Sunday at 12:05 p.m.

Where: Baum Stadium in Fayetteville

TV: None

Radio: Razorback Sports Network

Series Record: Arkansas leads 4-1

Starting Pitchers: Arkansas —LHP Colin Poche (1-0, 0.00 ERA), RHP Ryne Stanek (1-1, 2.84 ERA), RHP Trey Killian (1-1, 1.29 ERA), LHP Randall Fant (0-0, 2.25); San Diego State RHP Michael Cederoth (1-1, 2.60 ERA), RHP Philip Walby (1-1, 1.12 ERA), RHP Ryan Doran (2-1, 3.32 ERA), TBA

Top Hitters: Arkansas - RF Tyler Spoon (.391, 2 HR, 15 RBI), SS Brian Anderson (.357, 2 3B, 7 RBI), LF Joe Serrano (.306, 0 HR, 5 RBI), CF Matt Vinson (.300, 2 2B, 3 RBI); San Diego State – C Jake Romanski (.378, 3 2B, RBI), CF Greg Allen (.353, 0 HR, 7 RBI), 1B John Spirk (.346, 0 HR, 6 RBI), DH Brad Haynal (.289, 4 2B, 7 RBI)