Matt Jones has been the online sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette since 2010. He is also a feature writer for Hawgs Illustrated magazine and is currently pursuing a Masters degree in journalism.
NCAA should take notice of latest win
Arkansas' Brian Anderson slides into home plate during the second inning of a game against Texas A&M on Saturday, May 10, 2014 at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville. Arkansas won 7-3.
FAYETTEVILLE For the first time this conference season, Arkansas will go into a series finale with the series already won.
The Razorbacks beat No. 20 Texas A&M 7-3 Saturday night in a manner similar to their walk-off win the night before. After the Aggies tied the game in the eighth inning, Arkansas scored four runs with two outs - capped by an Eric Fisher two-run home run - in the bottom of the inning to regain the lead.
Now the Razorbacks (32-20, 13-13 SEC), who haven't been swept in 26 consecutive series, have a chance to record their first full SEC weekend sweep in their last 17 series. (Arkansas beat Georgia twice last season before the finale was canceled because of weather. The team's last three-game conference sweep was last March at South Carolina).
Don't discount the influence Arkansas' three (and counting?) game win streak could have on the NCAA selection committee. The Razorbacks had an impressive win over Ole Miss last Sunday and have shown the ability to overcome late challenges from a quality foe this weekend.
Texas A&M (30-21, 12-14) had won two straight series entering this weekend, including one last week over LSU. The Aggies entered this series ranked No. 32 in the NCAA RPI.
Arkansas and Texas A&M could be battling for the league's last spot in the regionals. If the SEC gets nine bids, the Razorbacks' head-to-head win this weekend could end up being the difference.
Starting pitching has once again been solid with Trey Killian and Chris Oliver turning in long outings, though blown leads by a pair of trusted relievers in the eighth and ninth innings should be cause for a little concern.
Counteracting its bullpen's late struggles, Arkansas is getting more widespread production from its offense. The Razorbacks scored in only one inning of four straight games against Auburn, Missouri State and Ole Miss (twice), but scored in five innings last Sunday, three innings Friday and three innings Saturday.
Even if Arkansas doesn't complete the sweep Sunday, it has added a fourth solid series win to go alongside others over RPI top 25 teams South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Alabama. If the Razorbacks can get a much-needed series road win at Missouri (20-29, 6-20 SEC) next week, they should secure an at-large berth to another NCAA regionals round.