Arkansas, Alabama preview for weekend at Baum-Walker
By Otis Kirk
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas will host Alabama for a three-game weekend series at Baum-Walker Stadium this weekend.
Arkansas (21-4, 4-2) will try to bounce back from a rough Saturday in Baton Rouge where they lost two games, 12-2 and 14-5. Arkansas won the series opener 9-3 on Friday. Alabama (20-6, 2-4) has Dave Van Horn’s attention.
“We felt before the season started that Alabama was going to have one of the best teams in our division,” Van Horn said. “Probably if not the most experienced team, real close. Older team, guys that have been in their program for three or four years. Even their sophomores played a lot as freshmen. The juniors have obviously played a lot. They’ve just got an older team, experienced, they don’t get rattled.
“They got after us last year. They beat us the last two ballgames over there at their home field and then beat us at the tournament. So we know what we’re up against. They’re tough to get out, they’re experienced. They started on the road at Florida and ran into a really good Florida team and then last weekend, three tough games, could have gone either way and they scratched out a win on Sunday.”
The Tide has lost series to Florida and Kentucky by 2-1 margins the first two weekends of SEC play. Van Horn saw starters Will McEntire and Cody Adcock struggle in Baton Rouge.
“Adcock I feel like had pretty good stuff, just didn’t locate,” Van Horn said. “I would have to say probably the same with McEntire. You can’t do that down there with that lineup, especially with the wind howling out like it was.
“So I think they’ll be fine. As of right now, Adcock, we may use him on Friday. It’s hard to say.”
Hunter Hollan started the Friday game and though he didn’t get the decision he pitched well. Hollan worked 5.1 innings and only allowed three hits and no runs. He walked one and struck out seven LSU hitters.
“Well, it hasn’t been too big for him,” Van Horn said. “I think he likes it. He knows it’s most always going against the other team’s No. 1 pitcher. He seems to step up to that challenge.
“He’s been really good. He’s been consistent, he throws strikes, he competes. He’s got three or four different pitches. He’s got a couple different type of breaking balls. When he’s on, he’s really good.”
Hagen Smith was moved from the rotation to the bullpen when SEC play opened. He pitched 4.2 innings against LSU allowing five hits, three runs, walked a trio and struck out eight. He got the win and is now 4-0 on the season. His role could possibly change again.
“We just bring him in when we feel like the game’s on the line or if we have a chance to win it,” Van Horn said. “I mean, if we’re down four or five runs, we’re not going to bring him in. You could see him start this weekend. We’ll just… In this league this year, and it might be this way going forward and I’ve said it many times, the SEC’s not going to be a young league much any more.
“The teams are all going to be really talented, as always, but now they’re going to be older than normal it looks like with the transfer portal and all that you can do to bring in players. Just winning games on the weekend are going to be big, whether you win the series or one. If you get a chance to sweep somebody, that’s huge. So we’re just going to try to win the game that’s in front of us.”
Ben Hess (3-0, 3.34) is the Friday starter for the Tide. Van Horn saw Hess strike out 10 Kentucky batters in 6.1 innings last Friday. Hess didn’t figure in the decision with the Tide losing in extra innings.
“He’s obviously really talented,” Van Horn said. They have three legitimate starters. What I mean by that is, a lot of teams at this time of the year are looking for that third guy. They could run all three of those guys out there on Friday night and be fine.
“Their Sunday guy, [Grayson] Hitt, a lefty, is really good, really talented. Projected really good [in the] draft. And [Luke] Holman has a great arm. He might have the best velocity. They all have really good arms. They can pitch. Hess has just been a consistent pitcher for them.
“What problems does he present? He’s just got good stuff. When he makes a mistake or leaves the ball out over the plate, we need to make good contact. If not, it can be a long night.”
Arkansas and Alabama will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Friday and then at 2 on both Saturday and Sunday. The Sunday game will be on the SEC Network. The first pair of games are on the SEC Network+.
Photos Courtesy of Craven Whitlow CW3 Action Sports