Hogs, 'Horns renewal provides 'unique' midweek series

By: Dudley E. Dawson
Published: Monday, March 12, 2018
Arkansas catcher Brian Walker tags Texas base runner David Moroul during an NCAA Tournament game on June 6, 2005, in Austin, Texas. The Razorbacks and Longhorns are set to play two games this week after playing only five games since Arkansas left the Southwest Conference in 1991.
Photo by Benjamin Krain
Arkansas catcher Brian Walker tags Texas base runner David Moroul during an NCAA Tournament game on June 6, 2005, in Austin, Texas. The Razorbacks and Longhorns are set to play two games this week after playing only five games since Arkansas left the Southwest Conference in 1991.

Two old Southwest Conference foes will square off in Fayetteville this week when No. 10 Arkansas (11-4) hosts Texas (9-7) on Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon.

The Razorbacks and Longhorns will begin the series with Arkansas junior left-hander Kacey Murphy (1-0, 0.00 ERA) taking the mound against Texas junior right-hander Beau Ridgeway (1-0, 8.31) Tuesday at 7 p.m. on the SEC Network.

Arkansas pitcher/infielder Evan Lee, who got the win in relief for the Razorbacks on Sunday as they downed Kent State 11-4, knows the matchup is looked upon as a big one.

“We have a lot of the guys on the team from Texas,” Lee said. “I know that to play UT they're going to get pumped up. There's going to be a bunch of hype around the games. We've just got to take it as another baseball game and win every inning, win every pitch and I think we'll be all right.”

Arkansas, which opens SEC action with a home series this weekend against No. 4 Kentucky, dropped from No. 7 to No. 10 in this week’s USA Today Coaches' Poll.

Texas dropped out of the poll from No. 20 after losing the last three games of a four-game home set with then-No. 5 Stanford, which moved to No. 3 in this week’s rankings.

“Rough weekend,” said Texas head coach David Pierce, who plans to start freshman right hander Nico O’Donnell (1-0, 2.13) in Wednesday’s 4 p.m. contest.

The Longhorns took the opener from Stanford, 8-6, but then were outscored 27-5 in the last three games.

“It’s a challenge,” Pierce said. “[We're] embarrassed right now. We had great fan support all weekend and we just didn’t play well. You can’t get by with mistakes and opportunities when they arise. You can’t get by with them against good teams. We didn’t capitalize on anything all weekend really.”

Pierce in his second season after taking over for former head coach Augie Garrido, who is currently hospitalized with a very serious medical condition, according to D1Baseball writer Kendall Rogers.

“They're a little more powerful team than they've been with Coach Garrido here,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “When Coach Garrido was with Texas they played a lot of small ball and tried to manufacture runs. You know Texas has some guys who can hit the ball out of the park.

“They have a little bigger team and they'll look the part. They're physical and I've watched them as much as I can the last few days.”

The Longhorns are led by their 1-2-3 hitters in David Hamilton (.267, 9 stolen bases), Mason Hibbeler (.338, 10 RBIs) and Kody Clemens (.385, 4 HRs, 15 RBIs), who started the season with a 13-game hitting streak and is the son of former Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens.

“Old Southwest Conference rival here,” Pierce said. “There’s probably going to be about 10,000 people there but it’s probably going to be really cold. The weather is going to be a mess. We’ll have to deal with the elements but also the hostility. It may be the best thing for us right now.”

Pierce noted that the Longhorns have some simple goals this week.

“Regroup,” Pierce said. “Get back to trusting yourself, believing yourself. Understand that we just played one of the better teams in the country and we have to learn from them. Take it personal.”

Jordan McFarland hit two homers - one a grand slam - on Sunday after coming off the bench when Jared Gates was injured. He called Texas a "unique" midweek series.

“We normally don't have teams that prestigious coming in," McFarland said. "I think it'll be a really good test for Kentucky, before SEC play starts. UT will be a really good test for us for sure.”

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