Thu April 11, 2024

By Lance Hawley

Arkansas to Host Bama This Weekend
By Otis Kirk

FAYETTEVILLE -- No. 1 Arkansas will be on the road this weekend to face Alabama.

Arkansas (29-3, 11-1) and Alabama (22-11, 4-8) will begin the series Friday night at 6 p.m. Rob Vaughn is the new head coach at Alabama. Dave Van Horn was asked how well he knows Vaughn.

"I don’t know Rob real well," Van Horn said. "He’s more of a guy that my assistants know real well from being out on the road with him because he was a longtime assistant. I know they got off to an extremely hot start. They’ve got some good players that were still in the program when he got the job. He brought some with him. They got into the portal and got some, and they’ve been solid. I’ve heard nothing but good things about him."

The Tide is an impressive 16-3 at home this season. They beat Tennessee and South Carolina 2-1 in series at Tuscaloosa. They were swept on the road at Georgia and Kentucky.

Arkansas is 19-1 since second baseman Peyton Stovall returned to the lineup. He knows the Tide is a dangerous opponent.

"Yeah, I can remember from last year," Stovall said. "They’re a really talented team. They were an older team. I don’t know if they are this year but it’s going to be tough. It does not matter who you play in the SEC, going on the road in the SEC is super tough. You look at Auburn’s record, the record doesn't show it but they’re a very good ballclub.  Being able to go there and take two out of three is tough and so it is going to be a challenge. Looking forward to it. It’s going to be fun man. We’re looking forward to it and can’t wait to get down there."

Van Horn said he expects to keep the same starting rotation of Hagen Smith, Mason Molina and Brady Tygart. They need to be on their best game since Alabama has five players hitting over .300.

Third baseman Gage Miller is hitting an incredible .417 with 13 home runs and 41 runs batted in. Center fielder T.J. McCants is hitting .308 with 12 round trippers and 36 runs batted in.

Stovall is seeing a different focus for this Arkansas team than in the past. He says there's a reason they seem to be playing very good ball each time out.

“Yeah. I think the biggest thing is that all 40 guys on the team are showing up," Stovall said. "We don’t take a day off. You can count sometimes during midweeks. Sometimes you’re kind of there but you’re not really locked in. But I think we’ve done a really good job at that. We’ve coming and we’ve played really good baseball. Everyone’s been super focused. Doesn’t matter if it’s on a weekend or a midweek. It’s defiantly something different. I can remember last year and the year before, there would be some games where you could just feel that the focused energy wasn’t there. But I haven’t felt that with this team. Hopefully we can continue to keep doing that.”

Shortstop Wehiwa Aloy got off to a very slow start at the plate for Van Horn's Hogs. But he is on fire now and also is proving to want to play every game. He is hitting .294 with nine home runs and 34 runs batted in.

"I talked to him the other day about taking a day off," Van Horn said. "He started laughing. That’s what he does when I start giving him a hard time. He said he doesn’t want to take a day off. You know, I could put (Nolan) Souza over there, could put (Jared) Sprague-Lott over there. Kind of resting Sprague-Lott for a couple of days, get him ready for the weekend.

"If I feel like he’s not playing up to what he needs to be playing, I’ll give him a day off. But, he’s strong, he wants to play and I really didn’t want to take him out of the lineup. He’s starting to get going offensively where he’s laying off borderline pitches early in the count, he’s taking his walks. Think he walked twice today and he’s also hitting the ball extremely hard. He had a sac-fly yesterday and tried to break my window. I mean, he’s — I don’t want to slow him down. I want to get him grooving so we hit the weekend, he’s feeling good about it."

Saturday's game is set to start at 5 p.m. and then Sunday at 1 p.m. All three games can be streamed on the SEC Network+.

Photos Courtesy of Craven Whitlow CW3 Sports Action