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 TOURNAMENT :
Tigers trounce rundown Hogs
LSU catcher Kade Scivicque tags out Arkansas shortstop Michael Bernal at home plate during a SEC Tournament game Saturday, May 24, 2014 at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Ala.
HOOVER, Ala. -- Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn had a blunt message for his team before the Razorbacks started a series against Texas A&M two weeks ago.
"Basically I told the guys, 'You're educated, you're smart kids. We're going to have to make a move or we're going to get left behind,' " Van Horn said. "I just left it right there. I didn't say any more. They knew exactly what I meant."
It was simple. The Razorbacks needed to start winning more SEC games or risk ending their NCAA Tournament streak of 12 years.
"I wasn't trying to put a lot of pressure on them, but just to make sure they knew we're going to run out of time," Van Horn said. "Sure enough, they kicked it into gear and rallied the troops and did a good job."
LSU beat the pitching-depleted Razorbacks 11-1 Saturday at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in an SEC Tournament elimination semifinal game, but it was an overall good week for Arkansas (38-23) as part of a late-season surge that appears to have clinched an NCAA regional bid.
The Razorbacks are 9-3 in their past 12 games -- all against SEC teams -- and 19-16 against conference teams overall after being 10-13 when they lost their first two games at Ole Miss in the teams' regular-season series on the first two days of May.
"I'm proud of the way our guys fought these last few weeks," Arkansas second baseman Brian Anderson said. "We kind of had our backs up against the wall there."
Arkansas was playing its fifth game in five days Saturday while LSU was playing its third SEC Tournament game after having byes in the first round and into the semifinals.
The Tigers (43-14-1) had 16 hits -- including home runs by Conner Hale, Kade Scivicque and Tyler Moore -- and got six innings from starting pitcher Kyle Bouman. The game was called in the eighth inning when LSU took a 10-run lead.
Arkansas freshman Zach Jackson, an effective reliever this season making his first start, held the Tigers to one run in three innings after pitching three innings earlier this week, but LSU jumped on Jackson Lowery for six runs to take control.
"I felt like coming into today we obviously had a chance, but you could just tell after a couple of innings that everything was a little bit in slow motion for us," Van Horn said. "The bats were slow. I think guys were tired.
"Playing five days in a row, pretty hot, it's not an excuse, but it is an excuse. I think we ran out of gas, and obviously we ran out of pitching."
Arkansas' turnaround after having a losing SEC record began with an 11-1 victory in its series finale at Ole Miss. The Razorbacks came home to take 2 of 3 against Texas A&M, swept a three-game series at Missouri, and went 3-2 at the SEC Tournament, opening with victories over Texas A&M and Ole Miss, losing to LSU and then rallying from six runs down to beat Ole Miss before losing to LSU.
"My respect for them went up a large amount after they were down 6-0 to a really good Ole Miss team and they fought through it and ended up winning the ballgame," LSU Coach Paul Mainieri said. "I think they've got as good a chance of winning a regional as anybody."
Arkansas scored four or more runs in nine of its past 13 games before Saturday. The one run against LSU represents the 11th time Arkansas has scored three or fewer runs in 35 games against SEC opponents.
"The middle of the season it was two or three runs a game. We were begging for runs," Van Horn said. "It was getting frustrating. Then we started getting hits -- big hits."
Outfielder Joe Serrano said the Razorbacks became closer as a team as they responded to Van Horn's challenge to get clutch victories.
"Postseason is all about what type of chemistry you have within your team," Serrano said. "It can go very well for you or just kind of go down the drain, depending on how your team bonds.
"I think during this stretch we've bonded together a lot more. We feel that postseason atmosphere."
No team is more familiar with Arkansas' resurgence than Texas A&M, which which is 0-4 against the Hogs after being swept in Fayetteville two weeks ago and losing Tuesday in the SEC Tournament.
"You can see they're starting to feel it a little bit offensively," Texas A&M Coach Rob Childress said. "They're feeling pretty good about themselves right now."
The Razorbacks will find out their regional destination when the NCAA Tournament field is announced Monday.
"We know that wherever we get picked to go, the team that's hosting us is going to be nervous because we have all the talent in the world," Arkansas first baseman Eric Fisher said. "We know we can go wherever and win the regional. We know we have what it takes."
SEC Tournament glance
At Hoover (Ala.) Metropolitan Stadium
LSU 11, Arkansas 1, 8 inn.
Florida 6, Kentucky 5
TODAY’S CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
All times Central
LSU vs. Florida, 3:30 p.m.
Sports on 05/25/2014