Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Oliver ready, no matter what day it is
Arkansas pitcher Chris Oliver pitches against Mississippi at Oxford-University Stadium in Oxford, Miss. on Sunday, May 4, 2014. Arkansas won 11-1. (AP Photo/Oxford Eagle, Bruce Newman)
FAYETTEVILLE -- Chris Oliver knows how to pitch better than he knows the days of the week.
A quick look at his stats proves the Arkansas Razorbacks right-hander from Farmington knows how to pitch. He has a 2.84 earned run average and 49 strikeouts and only 27 walks in 76 innings to go along with a 6-4 record that doesn't reflect some well-pitched no-decisions.
But Arkansas' ever-changing weekend rotation has frazzled the former Sunday starter's routine. He will have to adjust again this week when the Razorbacks wrap up the regular season with games Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and the fact ailing starter Jalen Beek is still sidelined only compounds the situation.
Oliver pitched last Saturday against Texas A&M at Baum Stadium and is scheduled to pitch Friday night at Mizzou.
"The last few weeks I have gotten a day shorter every weekend," Oliver said. "It is confusing sometimes because I have pitched on Sundays the whole year, and then [pitching] this Saturday was weird because we had a game the next day. This Thursday is going to be weird, too, because I will be pitching on Friday.
"Yeah, my calendar is all messed up."
Arkansas, 32-21 overall and 13-14 in the SEC West, needs to win one game against Missouri to assure advancing to next week's SEC Tournament. Given Mizzou is 6-21 in the SEC East, Arkansas likely needs to win at least two to remain viable for consideration for an NCAA regional.
WOMEN DOMINATE, TOO
A recent column noted the dominance of SEC men's track and field with the conference's power rating surpassing the combined ratings of the next-best conferences, the Pac-12 and the Big 12.
The SEC sets the best in women's track, too.
Just ask Lance Harter, whose Arkansas women's team also competes this weekend at the SEC Outdoor Championships in Lexington, Ky.
"We are eighth in the nation and sixth in the conference," Harter said. "So the good old SEC is just ridiculous."
SEC Outdoors favorite Florida ranks first in the latest United States Track and Field Cross Country Coaches Association national rankings. After Texas and Oregon, the SEC holds fourth through eighth with Texas A&M, the defending SEC Outdoor champion, Kentucky, Georgia, LSU and Arkansas.
Missouri and Mississippi State check in at 14th and 15th.
Arkansas' depth, particularly coming off its SEC championship cross country team plus top SEC pole vaulters Sandi Morris and Danielle Nowell, should propel its women ahead of many -- perhaps even all -- of the SEC teams in Lexington.
"Probably the pre-meet nod goes to Florida because of their sprint power and the great middle distance runners," Harter said. "We challenge them almost directly in the middle distances and distances, and our long distance crew is pretty potent. A&M could be in there if their sprint crew really gets rolling.
"All three of us have pretty good team balance."
Sports on 05/14/2014