Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Razorbacks want to get one for road
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn sends in a signal to a hitter during a game against Texas A&M on Saturday, May 10, 2014 at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas is on the brink of clinching a spot in next week's SEC baseball tournament, but the Razorbacks want much more than that in their final regular-season series that begins tonight at Taylor Stadium in Columbia, Mo.
"Obviously our mind-set is we've got to go up there and win the series," Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. "I mean, we haven't won a series on the road in league play."
ARKANSAS AT MISSOURI
WHEN 6 p.m.
WHERE Taylor Stadium, Columbia, Mo.
RECORDS Arkansas 32-21, 13-14 SEC; Missouri 20-30, 6-21
RADIO RSP statewide radio network. Not all games will be carried by affiliates. Check local listings.
The Razorbacks (32-21, 13-14 SEC), who need one victory in the three-game series at Missouri (20-30, 6-21) or one loss by either Auburn or Georgia to clinch a spot in the conference tournament, have lost all four of their SEC road series 2-1.
The Tigers have lost 12 consecutive SEC games and have scored just 26 runs in that span, an average of 2.2 per game. They are the only SEC team already eliminated from postseason consideration.
"That could be dangerous," Van Horn said.
"They've got nothing to lose," said Chris Oliver, who will start Friday night. "They're not going to the tournament. We've got everything to lose and they've got nothing to lose, and we're going to have to come out and stick it to them."
Arkansas will give left-hander Jalen Beeks a second week to rest his tired throwing shoulder, meaning sophomore right-hander Trey Killian (2-8, 2.29 ERA) will start tonight's game against junior right-hander Brett Graves (3-5, 3.71). Arkansas has not named a starter for Saturday's series finale.
The Tigers will go with 6-5 right-hander Peter Fairbanks (4-6, 4.13) and 6-3 right-hander Keaton Steele (0-8, 2.75, 9 saves) on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
"This is going to be a tough series," sophomore outfielder Tyler Spoon said. "Missouri's a good club, even though their record doesn't say it."
Arkansas, which was one strike away from sweeping No. 20 Texas A&M last weekend before falling 6-5 in 10 innings in the Sunday finale, has battled through injuries to split all of its previous nine SEC series.
The Hogs will be without shortstop Brett McAfee (back) again, and designated hitter Blake Baxendale (hamstring) is doubtful for a second consecutive weekend.
Freshman Clark Eagan, who started each of the three games against Texas A&M as the designated hitter, has provided a spark at the leadoff spot with his speed and bunting, and hit an opposite-field home run against the Aggies.
"He's a threat," Van Horn said. "He can mishit a ball and beat it out. He's showed that he can go out of the park, opposite field, which was pretty fun to watch. I didn't expect that at all -- kind of caught me off guard, actually -- but it's good, building his confidence.
"He brings a lot of energy to the top of the lineup."
Eagan, who hit .500 against Texas A&M with three sacrifice bunts, followed a succession of players in the leadoff spot that included Andrew Benintendi, Tyler Spoon and Joe Serrano.
"You try to start to make a name for yourself and just show your teammates and the coaches that you're worthy of being at a program like this," Eagan said. "Being able to contribute in any way possible is definitely good, to show them that you're ready to play at this level."
Sports on 05/15/2014