Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
SEC Baseball Report:
UA's grit a big part of late run
Arkansas first baseman Eric Fisher slides into second base ahead of the tag from Ole Miss shortstop Errol Robinson during the sixth inning of a SEC Tournament game on Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Ala.
HOOVER, Ala. -- Arkansas started its SEC run at Ole Miss three weeks ago and kept it going against the Rebels Wednesday in the SEC Tournament.
The Razorbacks are 8-1 in their past nine games -- all against SEC teams -- after beating Ole Miss 2-1 at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
Arkansas started its SEC surge with an 11-1 victory at Ole Miss on May 4 after losing the first two games of the series to the Rebels.
The Razorbacks also are 3-1 against Texas A&M and 3-0 against Missouri in their past nine games despite losing starting pitcher Jalen Beeks, catcher Jake Wise and designated hitter Blake Baxendale to injuries.
"We just told the team, 'We've got to band together and figure out how we're going to get it done,' " Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. "We've just had guys step it up."
Freshman Clark Eagan has taken over as the designated hitter and batted .444 (12 for 27) with 7 RBI and 6 runs scored over the nine-game stretch and drew 7 walks for a .583 on-base percentage. He has two home runs, but also has laid down four sacrifice bunts.
"We've been winning ever since we put him in the leadoff spot, somehow, some way," Van Horn said.
Freshman Alex Gosser, starting in Wise's place at catcher, has been solid defensively and is 4 for 8 in the past three games.
After Arkansas beat No. 1 starting pitchers against Texas A&M and Ole Miss in its first two SEC Tournament games, the Razorbacks will take on LSU ace Aaron Nola (9-1, 1.42 ERA) today.
Nola, a junior right-hander, has a 28-6 career record for the Tigers, including a 5-3 victory over Arkansas this season in which he had 13 strikeouts in seven innings.
"Nola is as good as it gets in this league -- and maybe in college baseball -- the last couple of seasons," Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. "We'd better go up there swinging, because he's going to be around the plate. We've just got to hope we make contact and find a hole and score a few runs."
Arkansas beat Nola and LSU 4-1 in the SEC Tournament last season behind Ryne Stanek, who is now pitching in the Tampa Bay Rays organization. Stanek held LSU to one run in eight innings while Nola allowed one run in seven innings.
Sophomore left-hander Colin Poche (3-0, 2.55 earned run average) will start for Arkansas against LSU. He did well as a midweek starter in nonconfernce games but struggled in SEC play with a 9.82 ERA in five appearances, all in relief. Poche has allowed four runs in 3 2/3 innings.
Swinging it well
LSU beat Vanderbilt 11-1 in Wednesday's opener, which was stopped after seven innings because the Tigers had built a 10-run lead.
The Tigers came into the SEC Tournament off a sweep at Auburn in which they won 10-0, 11-1 and 8-1. They beat Northwestern (La.) State 27-0 before pounding Auburn.
LSU also will have a large contingent of fans today that may make it feel like a home game for the Tigers.
"The fans are awesome for them, but I don't think that really affects us too much," Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. "LSU on the field right now is probably as hot as anybody in the country offensively. Then you throw in one of the top pitchers in the country, it's going to be a major, major challenge.
"We're probably going to have to play a perfect game to beat them."
Two of a kind
LSU Coach Paul Mainieri said he's looking forward to facing Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn today.
"I always enjoy coaching against Dave," Mainieri told the The Times-Picayune. "He reminds me of me. He's a risk-taker and puts a lot of pressure on the other team.
"It's fun to match wits with him. We're constantly starting each other down in the dugout to see if we can figure out what the other guy's is going to do. He's a very good baseball coach and uses a lot of strategy, and that makes it entertaining."
Sports on 05/22/2014