By Otis Kirk
Special to the Nate Allen Sports Service
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas’ weekend trip to Tuscaloosa this weekend certainly didn’t go as planned so now they have to hope for better luck when they stay in Alabama, but move over to Hoover for the SEC Tournament.
After dropping two of the three games against Alabama, including a very ugly 18-5 meltdown on Saturday. The good news for Arkansas is they do get a first-round bye at the SEC Tournament, but the bad news is they could face the Tide again.
Arkansas (38-16, 18-12) finished second in the SEC West to Texas A&M (35-17, 19-11), but drew the third seed at the tournament. They will face the winner of the Alabama (29-25, 12-17) and Georgia (35-20, 15-15) at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning with the game televised on the SEC Network. The Tide and Bulldogs will play Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. in the opening game of the tournament. Dave Van Horn was asked following Saturday’s one-sided loss where the team goes from here?
“Yeah, I mean, tomorrow will be pretty quiet,” Van Horn said Saturday. “Monday workout, Tuesday workout, play Wednesday. Probably get a lift in tomorrow. Other than that, pretty much a day away from any type of big practice. And then Monday and Tuesday work on a few things obviously, try to get our mind right and ready for Wednesday.”
Arkansas won the series opener over the Tide 7-3 Thursday night, but then fell 8-6 on Friday. Van Horn talked about his message to the Hogs following Saturday’s loss.
“No rah-rah here,” Van Horn said. “I don’t think rah-rah is going to get it done. It’s about pitching better and playing better defense. We actually swung the bats pretty good today. We had the same amount of hits, hit some balls hard that were caught. They didn’t walk us and hit us, and they didn’t make an error. That separated the game. What was said after the game was disappointed like everyone else. I’m not going to go through the game because we all were here to live it together, so we all have to handle it together. We’ve got to climb out of this hole a little bit.”
Van Horn is correct. Each team on Saturday had 11 hits. But Arkansas’ eight pitchers combined to walk 11 Tide hitters, hit three and the defense committed two errors. On Saturday, the Razorbacks jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first thus giving Van Horn and Arkansas fans hope the best was yet to come. However the Tide scored six runs in the bottom of the second and fourth innings, one in the third and five in the fifth to quickly erase any hope of the Hogs winning. Saturday’s loss was the first for the Hogs this season when they scored first. Was it a head scratcher for Van Horn?
“Yeah no doubt,” Van Horn said.
Van Horn’s teams seldom suffer such humiliating and frustrating one-side losses. Van Horn talked about the mindset before the game.
“The mindset was great,” Van Horn said. “It all started on the mound. That’s what’s changed everything.”
Will McEntire started Thursday’s win, Connor Noland went on Friday and then Jaxon Wiggins got the start on Saturday. What does the rotation look like for Wednesday’s opener?
“Oh, I don’t know yet,” Van Horn said. “Wiggins, he threw 31 pitches. I’m sure he would be good to go. We could probably pitch Connor if we wanted to. He threw 75. Yeah, I mean, I don’t know. We’ll figure that over the next couple of days, just get a plan together of how we want to attack the next game. Figure out who we’re going to play the next game. I don’t know, it might already be out there. We don’t know any of those details. We just finished playing. We’re about to get on a bus and drive over to Hoover. Nobody’s really in a very good mood right now, that’s for sure.”
Van Horn said the team will practice Monday and Tuesday at Samford University.
SEC Tournament Bracket
First two rounds are single elimination and all televised on the SEC Network.
Tuesday, May 24
Game 1, 9;30 a.m., No. 11 Alabama (29-25, 12-17) vs. No. 6 Georgia (35-20, 15-15)
Game 2, 1 p.m., No. 10 South Carolina (27-27, 13-17) vs. No. 7 Florida (35-20, 15-15)
Game 3, 4:30 p.m., No. 9 Ole Miss (32-21, 14-16) vs. No. 8 Vanderbilt (35-19, 14-16)
Game 4, 8 p.m., No. 12 Kentucky (30-24, 12-18) vs. No. 5 Auburn (37-18, 16-13)
Wednesday, May 25
Game 5, 9:30 a.m., No. 3 Arkansas (38-16, 18-12) vs. Winner Game 1
Game 6, TBD, No. 2 Texas A&M (35-17, 19-11) vs. Winner Game 2
Game 7, 4:30 p.m., No. 1 Tennessee (49-7, 25-5) vs. Winner Game 3
Game 8, TBD, No. 4 LSU (37-18, 17-13) vs. Winner Game 4
The double-elimination format of the SEC Tournament will begin Thursday. The championship game will be played on Sunday at 2 p.m. and televised on ESPN2.