Cliff Springston advances to Arkansas’ No. 1 starter while Justin Wells moves up to something better.

Say what?

How is being displaced as the starter in Friday’s 3 p.m. (CDT) Stanford Regional opener in Palo Alto, Calif. against Pepperdine a promotion for Justin Wells?

Well if you remember Charley Boyce, the ironman during Regionals for Arkansas’ 2004 College World Series pitching staff and the Razorbacks’ Regional rubber arm again in 2005, you’ll appreciate what coach Dave Van Horn has in store for the junior  from Bryant, a righthanded first-year  junior college transfer via Texarkana College.

Cliff Springston advances to Arkansas’ No. 1 starter while Justin Wells moves up to something better.
Say what?
How is being displaced as the starter in Friday’s 3 p.m. (CDT) Stanford Regional opener in Palo Alto, Calif. against Pepperdine a promotion for Justin Wells?
Well if you remember Charley Boyce, the ironman during Regionals for Arkansas’ 2004 College World Series pitching staff and the Razorbacks’ Regional rubber arm again in 2005, you’ll appreciate what coach Dave Van Horn has in store for the junior from Bryant, a righthanded first-year junior college transfer via Texarkana College.
Springston starts Friday as Arkansas’ hottest pitcher.
“He really threw well at Mississippi State,” Van Horn said.
However, for the third-seeded Hogs to win the three, possibly four games at Palo Alto to advance from this 4-team, double-elimination Regional, summoning Wells several times seems almost mandatory.
Especially in this West Coast field of top-seeded Stanford, the nationally 16th-ranked host team, second-seeded West Coast Conference runnerup Pepperdine of Malibu, Calif. and a fourth-seed, California-Davis of the Big West, arriving with billing more like a second-seed than the customary fourth-seed no-name.
It’s no guarantee that the Arkansas vs. Pepperdine loser Friday will avoid elimination in the projected Saturday afternoon’s loser bracket game with UC-Davis, or even that UC-Davis will be in the loser’s bracket given its recent past over Stanford, UC-Davis’ first-round foe Friday night.
“A couple of coaches told me yesterday,” Van Horn said Tuesday, “that UC-Davis is probably the best 4-seed in the country, that they are really good. They have beaten Fullerton ( once in three tries against a top-seeded Regional host) and Long Beach State (twice in three tries against a top-seeded Regional host) and they have beaten Stanford twice this year (10-8 and 9-8) They are good.”
But enough about a UC-Davis team Arkansas won’t play until Saturday at the earliest and conceivably might never meet in Palo Alto.
What’s Van Horn’s game plan for Springston, Wells and regular third-game conference series starter Dallas Keuchel?
“Springston will start the first day,” Van Horn said, “and Wells will be out of the pen. We’ll probably go with Keuchel for Game Two or Wells if he’s available. A lot will depend on who we are playing.”
Bet on lefty Keuchel starting Saturday after lefty Springston starts Friday with especially Wells, and also sophomore Mike Bolsinger and freshman James Mahler prepped for relief early and often and to be possible starters if the Hogs have survived to play one or two on Sunday and Monday if necessary.
Of those relievers, only Wells has both started and relieved this season without injury problems.
“Wells,” Van Horn said, “has one of those types of arms that can go all day. He’s done it. At Texarkana Junior College they pitched him and pitched him. He’s learned how to handle it and he’s in shape for it. He’s one guy who could pitch out of the pen four days in a row and he could start. That’s his mentality as well.”
Sounds like Charley Boyce.
“Pretty much,” Van Horn replied smiling.
Seems Arkansas has drawn the injury short straw most of the season.
However, for this Regional, it’s Pepperdine who might be missing its best player, outfielder Eric Thames, while Arkansas injured catcher Ryan Cisterna may be available after all.
Thames, .407 with 13 home runs and 11 stolen bases in 12 attempts, has an injured hamstring.
Van Horn had presumed Cisterna done for the year after it seemed his wrist was broken when hit by a pitch two weekends ago at Mississippi State.
Jeff Nutt caught the remainder of the Mississippi State series and against Western Illinois in the Hogs’ most recent game two Mondays ago, but now Van Horn talks either-or behind the plate.
“It’s more of a chip or crack,” Van Horn said. “So they said if he can play, that maybe we can play as long as we can with him. We’ll see how it goes. If he’s close to 100 percent healthy, we might go with him.”
Of course Van Horn wishes the Hogs could have qualified for the SEC Tournament and seen live pitching last week like the other three teams in Palo Alto did during league tournaments last week.
However, Van Horn said the time off did allow left fielder Casey Coon to rest an ailing ankle and outfielder Sean Jones continue mending his fractured hand.