Hogs welcome No. 4 Texas Tech after sweep

By: Bob Holt
Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn glances into the stands prior to the Razorbacks' 11-7 win over Missouri State at Baum Stadium  on April 17, 2018.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn glances into the stands prior to the Razorbacks' 11-7 win over Missouri State at Baum Stadium on April 17, 2018.

Arkansas Razorbacks Coach Dave Van Horn summed up his baseball team's series at Mississippi State in simple terms.

"We have a good team," Van Horn said Monday. "We had a bad weekend."

Mississippi State swept the three-game series from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville last weekend, beating the Razorbacks 6-5, 5-3 and 7-5 at Dudy Noble Field.

Arkansas came into the series leading the SEC West while the Bulldogs were last in the division.

"It happens," Razorbacks senior second baseman Carson Shaddy said. "No one's perfect. That's the way you've got to look at it. We were supposed to win that series and we didn't play good -- and they played very well.

"Everybody says Mississippi State is at the bottom of the league, but they've still got numerous guys that are known around the SEC as very good ballplayers, and they know how to play the game the right way and I think they instilled that in their younger guys, too."

The Razorbacks (28-13, 10-8 SEC) have lost three consecutive games for the first time since 2016 -- when they ended the season with a 13-game losing streak -- but they have a chance for redemption playing Texas Tech (32-9, 10-5 Big 12) in a two-game series that opens tonight at Baum Stadium.

The Red Raiders are No. 4 in the USA Today coaches' poll. The Razorbacks have fallen from No. 3 to No. 7 and still lead the SEC West in a first-place tie with Ole Miss.

"The talk of the team is to flush it and get back to normal and get back to being aggressive," Shaddy said. "Get back to being a really good team and be proud of how we play."

Shaddy won't start tonight because of a right hand injury and might not play against Texas Tech, but he said he's excited about the series and what it could mean for Arkansas.

"We had a bad weekend, and I'm glad we've got to come back and face these guys," Shaddy said. "I wouldn't want to come back and just play someone that was an automatic win. I want us to go out there and have to earn it."

Arkansas junior catcher Grant Koch said he's also glad the Razorbacks are taking on Texas Tech before resuming SEC play against Alabama this weekend.

"Any time you play a team of that caliber before a big series coming up, it gets you prepared," Koch said. "It makes you lock in.

"I think no matter who we were playing ... our mindset was going to be the same. We were going to be motivated to play just because of how last weekend turned out."

Arkansas couldn't hold leads of 5-0 and 3-0 in losing the first and third games at Mississippi State, and the Hogs were tied 1-1 going into the bottom of the fifth inning in the second game of the series.

The Razorbacks combined for 32 hits, but they left 27 runners on base.

"I think we had a lot of things not go our way," Van Horn said. "We didn't take advantage of a lot of things, left a lot of runners on base.

"Pitched some good innings, but also had a couple innings where Mississippi State just did a tremendous job of fouling off pitches and taking advantage of everything. You lose two 2-run games and a 1-run game. You can flip it and we could've won them all.

"So I think the mindset is learn and move on and realize that everybody's good in the league, and you're going to maybe have a weekend like that. The key is to get over it."

Koch said the hitters didn't help the Razorbacks' pitchers when they failed to add onto early leads in the first and third games.

"We put pitchers in pressure situations when we didn't need to," he said. "I think that may have had an effect."

Texas Tech has 58 home runs and a .318 team batting average. Sophomore left fielder Grant Little and sophomore third baseman Josh Jung are both batting .404 while starting every game.

"That's pretty amazing," Van Horn said. "That just means they're probably pushing each other."

Van Horn said the Red Raiders have hit well against right-handers and left-handers.

"If you look at the matchup, it doesn't really matter to them," he said. "They're a pretty solid offensive team."

Arkansas freshman right-handed pitcher Jackson Rutledge (3-0, 2.08 ERA) will start against Texas Tech freshman right-hander Ryan Sublette (0-1, 8.62) tonight.

Rutledge, 6-8 with a fastball that has hit 96 miles per hour, has 11 strikeouts in 13 innings.

"We'll start him and just let it roll and see how it goes," Van Horn said. "If he does well, we'll leave him in there for a while. If it doesn't go good, obviously we'll get him out."

Texas Tech is playing at Arkansas for the first time since 1990 when both teams were in the Southwest Conference and the Razorbacks swept a three-game series.

This week's series was scheduled two years ago.

"They called us," Van Horn said. "They were looking to go on the road at the time and wanted to get some place where probably RPI [Ratings Percentage Index] would matter.

"We needed a game or two, so we said, 'Yeah. Come on.' "

It hasn't been determined when the Razorbacks will play at Texas Tech.

"We haven't scheduled a return trip yet," Van Horn said. "We're still working on that."

Sports on 04/24/2018

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