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 TOURNAMENT:
Unsung Hogs get day to shine
Arkansas pitcher James Teague throws a pitch during a SEC Tournament game against Ole Miss on Friday, May 23, 2014 at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Ala.
HOOVER, Ala. -- Arkansas freshman James Teague hadn't pitched in an SEC game all season. Freshman third baseman Josh Alberius had one run batted in on the season. Junior outfielder Krisjon Wilkerson hit .156 (5 for 32) in SEC play.
But the unlikely trio combined to help the Razorbacks rally from six runs down to beat Ole Miss 8-7 Friday in an SEC Tournament elimination game at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
The Razorbacks (38-22) advanced to an elimination semifinal game against LSU (42-14-1) at noon today after trailing the Rebels 6-0 through three innings.
Teague threw a season-long 4 2/3 innings, Wilkerson got the offense going with an RBI double in a three-run fourth inning and laid down a sacrifice bunt in the ninth inning that helped the winning run score, and Alberius knocked in two runs, doubling his season RBI total, including a game-tying single in the eighth inning.
The Razorbacks enjoyed their largest comeback victory since May 9, 2008, when they beat South Carolina 12-11 on Jacob House's grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning after trailing 9-3.
"We brought in some guys that don't have much experience in the SEC, much less in an environment like this, and we hung in there," Arkansas Coach Dave Horn said. "They came off the bench and got it done.
"It was just a great team win for us. In a game you just keep grinding and sometimes things go your way, and I think that's what happened today."
Alberius and Wilkerson came into the game as replacements for Bobby Wernes (stiff back) and Andrew Benintendi (sore quad). Van Horn said they've been dealing with injuries for several weeks, and he put in Alberius in the second inning with Ole Miss (41-18) leading 5-0 and Wilkerson in the third inning when it was 6-0 as a precaution.
"They didn't come to me and ask out of the game, I was just being cautious," Van Horn said of removing two starters. "That was probably a good move, because the guys that came in did a nice job."
Teague, who hadn't pitched since April 23 against Northwestern (La.) State, kept the Razorbacks in the game and held the Rebels to 3 hits and 2 runs after they had roughed up Arkansas starter Dominiic Taccolini for 7 hits and 5 runs in 1 2/3 innings.
"When Teague first came into the game, we didn't have much on the scouting report, because he hadn't thrown an inning in SEC play," Ole Miss catcher Will Allen said. "So we were just kind going up there competing, trying to win some pitches."
Allen was the first batter to face Teague and hit a two-run single.
"After that first inning, he was just kind of keeping everybody off balance and really filling up the strike zone," Allen said. "He made some good pitches and ate some innings for them."
Teague said he had a good changeup that helped him get groundouts.
"I haven't pitched a lot, so I had a pretty fresh arm," Teague said. "I started off a little rocky, but I just tried to battle as best I could.
"It was a great job by our offense of staying in the game and battling back, because down by six runs, we could have thrown in the towel.
"The energy was great in the dugout. When we started to come back, everyone joined in and said, 'We're going to win this game.' "
Arkansas went ahead 8-7 in the top of the ninth inning when Joe Serrano hit a leadoff double against Ole Miss reliever Will Short, advanced to third on Wilkerson's sacrifice bunt and scored on Brian Anderson's sacrifice fly to center field.
Jacob Stone pitched a scoreless bottom of the ninth for his second save against Ole Miss this week, including the Razorbacks' 2-1 victory Wednesday. Michael Gunn replaced Teague and pitched 1 2/3 innings.
"When you look back, we had a few breaks, they had a few breaks, but at the end of the day they just wouldn't relent," Rebels Coach Mike Bianco said. "They just played better than we did."
Ole Miss took a 7-6 lead in the seventh inning on a check swing groundout by Sikes Orvis against Michael Gunn that scored Astin Anderson from third after he had doubled and gone to third on a groundout.
The Razorbacks tied it 7-7 in the eighth on Tyler Spoon's double and Alberius' RBI single. Alberius also had an RBI groundout in the fourth inning.
"Josh is a kid that just comes every day to practice and works hard," Van Horn said. "I was telling him, 'You never know when your number is going to be called, you've got to be ready,' and what I like about Josh is, he isn't scared. He just goes and plays."
Bianco said it was impressive to see how Arkansas' backups responded to help the Razorbacks win.
"To win this tournament, you need to play well, but you also need some guys who maybe aren't your so-called stars to step up and do something special," Bianco said. "Arkansas got that today."
ARKANSAS VS. LSU
WHEN noon Central WHERE Hoover (Ala.) Metropolitan Stadium. RADIO Razorbacks Sports Network statewide network. Not all games will be carried by all affiliates. Check local listings. TV ESPNEWS. INTERNET arkansasrazorbacks.com
Sports on 05/24/2014