Arkansas gearing up for final midweek set, stretch run

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Monday, April 23, 2018
NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn speaks to his team  before the Razorbacks' game with Dayton Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018, at Baum Stadium. Visit nwadg.com/photos to see more photographs from the game.
Photo by Andy Shupe
NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn speaks to his team before the Razorbacks' game with Dayton Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018, at Baum Stadium. Visit nwadg.com/photos to see more photographs from the game.

— If Dave Van Horn had it his way, No. 4 Texas Tech wouldn't be Arkansas' final midweek series of the season.

The Razorbacks have played at least one midweek game - eight total - since the opening week of SEC play, but out-of-league matchups will come to an end following a two-game set with the Red Raiders. Ideally, Van Horn would like to play four games per week leading into postseason play like most schools do.

Scheduling, though, becomes an issue, he said.

"I would like to have one or two more (midweek series)," Van Horn said. "It's hard to get anybody to travel this far in April and not play two. What it does, it throws us off where we have a couple of weeks where we don't play (midweek). One of them is usually finals week, so that's normal.

"But it would be nice if we had a midweek next week on Tuesday or Wednesday, but it's just hard to schedule that way. There's nobody that wants to come here, and we're not going to go on the road. We've been on the road a lot this year and missed a lot of school."

Arkansas is 7-1 in such games since March 13 when it took two from Texas at Baum Stadium in convincing fashion. The team's lone hiccup came one week later at Charlotte in a 6-3 loss. Since then, Arkansas has beaten Memphis, Louisiana-Monroe, Grambling State and Missouri State in primers before big weekend series.

Players hold mixed feelings about having no more midweek games after Wednesday. Second baseman Carson Shaddy, who will likely miss the Texas Tech series as he nurses two battered hands, said the final midweek series of the season brings him a bit of satisfaction.

"Every season that I've been a part of, when you get done with the midweeks it's kind of a sigh of relief," he said. "You're done with school and don't have to worry about putting so much pressure on yourself during the week, which is nice. It's just baseball from there on out."

Friday-night starter Blaine Knight echoed Shaddy, but added the Tuesday-Wednesday matchups bring a lot of value.

"The midweeks are good to get the younger guys some playing time and get the older guys some tune-up reps before the weekend gets going," he said. "It is a sigh of relief when it's over, but it's also a good thing (to play those games)."

As for Grant Koch, his approach is the same whether Arkansas is gearing up for a midweek game or big weekend series in the SEC. Midweek games are great for learning from and building on games the previous weekend, he said.

Arkansas will certainly carry what it learns over its next two games into Alabama this weekend. The Red Raiders are an offensive juggernaut, ranking fourth in the nation with a .322 team batting average and sixth with 54 home runs - nine fewer than Arkansas.

Texas Tech enters with a pair of sophomores hitting better than .400 this season, too. Infielder Grant Little boats a .411 average. Josh Jung is hitting .403 and is tied for sixth in the country with 62 hits.

While eyes will assuredly be on Fayetteville the next two days, Arkansas will soon turn its focus toward a strong finish to SEC play. Arkansas is currently tied with Ole Miss for the SEC West lead at 10-8 with 12 league games remaining.

"I think the biggest benefit (of no more midweek games) is we're just going to have to go out and earn it," Shaddy said. "Nothing is guaranteed in this league or in DI baseball. Having a team where we're going to have to come out and play our best is good for us. We come out here and do our job, play right and play Arkansas baseball, we'll be back to normal.

"Everybody is good. There's so much talent around the whole SEC," he added. "Everybody is kind of beating up on everybody right now. I'm kind of used to that - maybe not to this extent - but these last four series are going to be really fun, and I think it's important for us to realize that and try to play our best."

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