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No. 1 Razorbacks set to open season

Top-ranked Arkansas will open the 2013 season on Friday at 3:05 when they play host to Western Illinois.

Ryne Stanek will be on the mound for Arkansas on Friday against Western Illinois

Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn is anxious to get the season started after having several scrimmages and practices preparing for this season. Van Horn will have Ryne Stanek on the mound on Friday to be followed on Saturday by Barrett Astin and then Trent Daniel on Sunday. Randall Fant is still out with an injury.

“Fant is not in the rotation this weekend because of a hamstring,” Van Horn said. “The pitch count will be 70 to 80. That's what we're up to right now. It depends on obviously the weather, but also if it is an easy 70 or 80. If they are out of the stretch all that time and struggling they obviously won't last that long.”

Van Horn said the order coming out of the bullpen will depend on the situation and that will determine who comes out of the bullpen. Cade Lynch who battled migraines much of last year is feeling better and will be available out of the pen.

“In the tight games we will go with the guys that are experienced,” Van Horn said. “If we're fortunate to have a lead we will go other ways. We do have eight games in 10 days so we have to be smart with our pitching.”

Colby Suggs is one of Arkansas' aces out of the bullpen, but he has been battling some injury issues of his own.

“He is probably available,” Van Horn said. “I don't know if I'm going to pitch him yet. He's telling me he's fine and he's throwing. We'll see how it goes.”

Arkansas had four outfielders contending for three starting spots. At least to start the season, Matt Vinson will be in left field, Jacob Morris in center and Tyler Spoon in right. Joe Serrano won't start, but will see plenty of action this weekend according to Van Horn.

The weather has been pretty mild for much of the preseason, but will be colder this weekend for the three-game series against the Leathernecks.

“I wish we were playing at noon tomorrow, but we're not we're playing at 3,” Van Horn said. “It's supposed to be around 40. A little light wind out of the West.

“Hey, we're gonna play. I'm sure Western Illinois will be fine with it they are used to this kind of weather. Saturday it may even a little bit chillier, but we are playing at noon. Hopefully the sun will be out. If it was this temperature and we were a month into the season it's a little bit tougher to get guys excited to get out there, but I don't think they really care what the temperature is. I think they're just ready to play.”

Dominic Ficociello has moved from first base to second base this season. Van Horn talked about the change. Ficociello is 6-4, 200-pounds, but Van Horn feels he is the perfect size for a second baseman particular in the major leagues.

“Most of the guys are six foot,” Van Horn said of college second basemen. “He's tall for a second baseman, but if you look at big league second basemen they are all 6-2 and a lot of 6-4 shortstops. It's really about how quick you are. He's quick, you will see that. I like the range and the long arms, he covers a lot of ground out there. He moved good at first base, but he moves real good at second.”

Van Horn said he doesn't know a lot about the Leathernecks, but he is aware of Nick Smith who will be on the mound for Western Illinois on Friday. Smith was 3-6 last season with an ERA of 4.98 with 60 strikeouts in 68.2 innings.

“He's good,” Van Horn said. “Last year I saw where he beat Georgia.”

The leading hitter for Western Illinois is center fielder Dan Dispensa who hit .344 with two home runs and 28 RBI last season.

Arkansas' Batting Order for Friday:
LF Matt Vinson
CF Jacob Morris
RF Tyler Spoon
2B Dominic Ficociello
3B Brian Anderson
1B Eric Fisher
DH Will Schwanke
C Jake Wise
SS Brett McAfee
(Starting Pitcher) Ryne Stanek

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