BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
It’s easy to tell how much new Arkansas junior center fielder and switch-hitting lead off man Tavian Josenberger is enjoying his new surroundings.
A University of Kansas transfer and former Kansas City Park Hill prep standout , Josenberger (6-0, 185) voiced his excitement just minutes after the Razorbacks’ 9-7 home-opening win over Grambling on Tuesday afternoon.
“It was great,” Josenberger said. “I mean, it’s a Tuesday at 3 o’clock and we have way more fans than I would have saw on a Friday night at KU. It’s impressive and I want to thank all the fans for coming out. Glad to be here.”
There should be plenty of fans Friday as Arkansas (3-1) returns to action at 2 p.m. against Eastern Illinois (3-0) in the opener of a three-day, three-game series.
The visiting Panthers swept Florida A&M last weekend and are on a 19-game road trip to start the season that also includes games at Arkansas State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Hagen Smith (0-0, 0.00 ERA), Will McEntire (0-0, 22.50) and Hunter Holan (1-0, 2.25) are slated to be the starting pitchers for the Razorbacks.
Eastern Illinois plans to send sixth-year senior right-hander Blake Malatestinic (0-0, 6.75) out to the mound on Friday.
Josenberger will come into the series hitting .333 (5 of 15) with a home run, two doubles, four RBIs and four runs scored, three walks, one strikeout and was safe in his only steal attempt so far this season.
Ranked as the 44th best college prospect in the MLB draft by Baseball America and 99th by DI Baseball, launched a two-run homer out of the Texas Rangers’ Globe Life Field last weekend.
He nearly got one out against the wind Baum-Walker on Tuesday.
“He’s a really good leadoff man,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “He’s got some power. He hit a ball out of the big league park the other day that was just driven, and this ball was hit every bit as hard, and it didn’t get out with the elements, you know.
“But he’s got a good eye. He can handle the bat. He can bunt, steal bases. He brings a lot to the table.
“Even the first couple of ball games when he didn’t get on base much, he was helping us. He was helping us by fouling off pitches and doing things. And then (against Grambling), a couple of hits, sac-fly, scored runs, stolen base. Had a really good night.”
Josenberger was an All-Big 12 honorable mention pick for the Jayhawks last season while starting 52 games at second base.
He hit .276 with two home runs, 232 RBIs, stole 11 bases and had a team-leading 43 runs scored.
Josenberger, who hit .311 as a freshman as a freshman, and Razorback second-place batter Peyton Stovall, also hitting .333, both reached base three times against Grambling.
“I think it’s big,” Josenberger said. “I think that’s one of the big reasons I’m here, is to set the tone and get on base for the guys behind me. Stovall is the same thing. He’s a really good hitter with great discipline.
“So yeah, if we can keep getting on base and having guys like (Jared) Wegner, (Caleb) Cali, (Brady) Slavens, guys like that to back us up, we’re going to score a lot of runs.”
Van Horn notes that Josenberger has also been good on the base paths at going from first to third.
“He’ll run in your face,” Van Horn said. “We’ve been working on going from first to third and he’s the best at it. We know the arm strength of the other team’s outfielders and that makes a little bit of a difference.
Josenberger, who also stole 11 bases as a freshman at Kansas, will look to collect thefts at Arkansas, but knows there will be times he’ll stay near the bag as the middle of the orders hits.
“…I’d like to run a little bit,” Josenberger said. “But it’s based on Coach Van Horn and what he thinks. He doesn’t like to run ourselves out of innings and I think we have guys behind me and it’s not just me, but guys in the lineup that can swing the bat really well. So it just comes down to situations.”