Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A two-time graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Biletnikoff Award.
Serrano likely for Alabama series
McAfee's status still unknown
NWA Media/ANDY SHUPE - Arkansas left fielder Joe Serrano connects for a 3-run double during the third inning against South Alabama Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas outfielder Joe Serrano is likely to return for this weekend's series against Alabama.
Serrano suffered a "fluke" ankle injury prior to the Razorbacks' series at Florida, coach Dave Van Horn said, and didn't play against the Gators. Serrano is batting .283 this season and is tied for the team lead with 13 RBIs despite missing four games.
"He probably could have played tonight if we wanted him to," Van Horn said following Tuesday's 4-3 win over Grambling State. "I still don't think I'm going to play him tomorrow and give him another day. If I need him, I'll bring him off the bench. I figure with another 48 hours he'll be close to ready to go by Friday."
Van Horn said the prognosis wasn't as favorable for shortstop Brett McAfee, who didn't play for the fourth consecutive game Tuesday while nursing a back injury.
"His back is bothering him, so we're not going to rush it," Van Horn said. "I don't know if he'll be ready for the weekend or not."
Michael Bernal has started the last four games at shortstop for McAfee with mostly positive results. Bernal made a pair of nice defensive plays in Tuesday's win over Grambling State, including a highlight reel play to end the sixth inning.
Bernal dove to his left to stop a ball up the middle before jumping to his feet and making a sharp throw to first base for an out, but he committed an error to leadoff the next inning. Arkansas loses some offense without McAfee in the lineup. He is batting .302 this season while Bernal is batting .257.
The Razorbacks (10-7) will start freshman right-hander Alex Phillips on the mound in their midweek finale against Grambling State (3-16).
The series against Alabama (13-6) this weekend will be Arkansas' first against a Southeastern Conference team at home this season. The Razorbacks and Crimson Tide boasted two of college baseball's six lowest team earned run averages entering the week.