Tide defeats Arkansas 4-3 in the SEC Tournament

No. 3 seed Arkansas opened SEC Tournament play the same way they finished the regular season and that was facing No. 11 Alabama.

For the third time in a row Alabama handed Arkansas a defeat. The Tide jumped out to a 4-1 lead over the Razorbacks and then held on to take a 4-3 victory. The loss sends the Razorbacks to the loser’s bracket where they will play the loser of Texas A&M and Florida at an undetermined time and date.

Due to rainy weather in Hoover, Ala., only two games were played on Wednesday. Earlier in the day Kentucky defeated Auburn 3-1. Florida and Texas A&M were supposed to play following the Hogs and Tide, but that game was moved to Thursday due to more bad weather coming in.

In addition to battling the weather, Arkansas also had to play without its head coach Dave Van Horn who wasn’t feeling well and didn’t come to the park. Matt Hobbs, Arkansas’ pitching coach, filled in for Van Horn with the media following the game He looked at the 3-0 deficit facing the Hogs in the top of the third when starter Will McEntire was knocked out of the game.

“I think that the game really comes down to the first couple innings of the game,” Hobbs said. “We didn’t really get off to a good start on the mound, didn’t really pitch all that well to begin the game. Thought we threw the ball well at the end of the game. We didn’t play very good defense at the beginning of the game, and they took advantage. You’ve got to give a heck of a lot to credit to Coach (Brad) Bohannon and those guys over there with Alabama. Thought they did a really good job. They played clean baseball, their pitchers threw strikes, and they took advantage of our mistakes early to get out to a pretty decent lead. And it’s — obviously when you’re facing a good team, it’s tough to come back.”

McEntire worked 2.1 innings facing 12 hitters. He allowed two hits, three runs (pair earned), three walks and struck out four. McEntire (1-2) took the loss. The Tide scored two runs in the second and another in the third.

Arkansas got onto the scoreboard in the bottom of the third when shortstop Jalen Battles hit a solo shot over the fence in left center. The Tide though added a run in the top of the fourth to go up by three runs.

The score remained the same until the bottom of the sixth when Chris Lanzilli sent a shot over the fence in center field also scoring Brady Slavens. But neither team scored the final three innings. Once again with all three runs coming the result of home runs Hobbs was asked if that is too much of Arkansas’ game despite outhitting the Tide 5-4?

“I think that it’s part of our offense and it’s one of the things that if it has helped us win games in the past, we can’t blame it on it when we lose games,” Hobbs said. “I think one of the things about our offense is that it is explosive at times. And, yeah, I’m sure we’d like to string together seven or eight hits, but we get ourselves back in that game with a two-run home by Lanzilli. So we’re in the game, we’re in position to win the game, we’re in position to put ourselves in a spot to be able to get a win because of the long ball.

“I think that it is a huge part of our offense, and if we’re a little bit more multiple in some of the times that we have played this season, our record is a little bit different. But that’s not — that isn’t who we’ve been.”

Arkansas also has been a good fielding team much of the season, but both catcher Michael Turner and second baseman Robert Moore committed an error against the Tide. The Hogs also had some fielding issues against Alabama in Tuscaloosa over the weekend.

“Yeah, I think it’s just one of those things that you’re going to go through ups and downs either on the mound, at the plate, or defensively throughout the season,” Hobbs said. “And it’s unfortunate that it’s happening right now. I don’t think that’s something that will continue with our team. I do think the defense is just too good for that to happen.

“We’ve made mistakes in big spots, and I think that’s one of those things that it shows up because you expect it to be so good because it has been so good. And we have a heck of a lot of confidence in our defense, and I do believe that it’s like anything, we’re in a little bit of a slump right now, but we will out of that.”

A bright spot for the Hogs on Wednesday was the bullpen. Zack Morris, Kole Ramage and Evan Taylor combined to work 6.2 innings. They allowed two hits, one unearned run, walked three and struck out six.

“Yeah, I think the last couple games can really leave a sour taste in your mouth if you’re those guys because they have been so good for us this season,” Hobbs said. “And I was very proud of the way — especially Kole Ramage and Evan Taylor. If you really look at all of Ramage’s last outings, he took the ball out three days in a row over the weekend, really just kind of gutted out the last one. The stat line doesn’t look very good for Kole on that particular one on Saturday, but if you look at heart, soul and guts, you’re pretty proud of that kid.

“And then Evan Taylor has been good for us all season. And Zack was little bit up-and-down today. His command wasn’t very good today, but he’s been great for us throughout the season, also. Proud of those guys to be able to keep the game close, keep it manageable, and give us a chance to win there at the end.”

Arkansas had kept it a secret they planned to start McEntire. Hobbs talked about what went into that decision and was asked who would start the next game?

“I didn’t think Will threw the ball all that well today,” Hobbs said. “Obviously not indicative of how well he’s been throwing the ball for — really over the course of the season for us. It’s an outing that is one outing throughout the course of the season, and we expect Will to be able to help us possibly later in this tournament and definitely next week going forward.

“As far as the decision to — who to start tomorrow, we’ll discuss that as a staff and then we’ll announce that later. We haven’t come up with that yet.”

Antoine Jean (5-1) was the winning pitcher while Dylan Ray (8) got the save. Arkansas drops to 38-17 and is in grave danger of losing out on hosting a regional. That was unthought of two weeks ago, but the Hogs are 1-4 in their last five games. Bohannon was obviously pleased to get the win, but also took notice of Van Horn not in the opposite dugout.

“First thing I’ll say is it was really weird looking over at the Arkansas dugout and not seeing Coach Van Horn, so I hope he’s feeling better,” Bohannon said. :”He’s one of the GOATS as far as I’m concerned. I thought it was an awesome college baseball game. Fortunately Arkansas helped us a little bit early. To our guys’ credit, we took advantage of some mistakes that they made, and really the story of the game, both bullpens were just outstanding. Weren’t very many hits the back half of the game and was really proud of our whole team but especially those guys that pitched after Jacob McNairy gave us a good start today.”

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