Hogs attempt to forget road woes

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Monday, May 21, 2018
Arkansas Texas A&M Saturday, May 12, 2018, during the inning at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas Texas A&M Saturday, May 12, 2018, during the inning at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The No. 6 Arkansas Razorbacks will spend the next couple of days in central Alabama resting and practicing for their Wednesday late game at the SEC Tournament and licking their wounds from a pair of one-run losses to No. 13 Georgia.

The losses -- 8-7 in 10 innings on Friday and 3-2 on Saturday on a game-ending double play at home plate -- knocked the Razorbacks (37-17) from the No. 2 seed and a morning game on Wednesday into the late start against the winner of the South Carolina vs. Missouri game.


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Despite the losses, the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville claimed a share of its fifth division title and its first SEC West crown since 2011 with an 18-12 record and earned a bye into the double-elimination portion of the SEC Tournament.

The Razorbacks are still a strong candidate to receive a top eight national seed for the NCAA Tournament, which could keep the Hogs at Baum Stadium up to the College World Series.

Coach Dave Van Horn, who has led Arkansas to four SEC West titles in his 16 seasons, was disappointed his team couldn't score Heston Kjerstad from third with no outs in the ninth on Saturday.

Senior Carson Shaddy struck out against Ryan Webb, then Dominic Fletcher hit a pop-up to left field on which Kjerstad tagged and tried to score. Left fielder Keegan McGovern threw home to Austin Biggar, who tagged Kjerstad out to end the game.

"The disappointment is we had a chance to tie it up there with just a little contact, a little better contact, maybe a little better approach," Van Horn said. "It just didn't happen. It's disappointing, so hopefully some of those big hits are going to come our way down the road."

The Razorbacks -- an SEC-best 14-1 in conference home games -- wound up 4-11 in SEC road games, with six of the losses by one run and four more by two runs. In four of their five SEC road series, the Hogs won the opener and followed with two losses. They were 0-10 in the second and third games of SEC road series, compared to 10-0 in those games at home.

Van Horn said the Razorbacks must play better away from Baum Stadium to close out the season right.

"We've played great at home," he said. "Our record at home is good and on the road we've been pretty average in my opinion."

Asked what made things different on the road, Van Horn said, "We're going to have to start coming up with some better things. For example, we've got to field the ball a a little better on the road and we've got to do a lot better job of driving in runs. If we do those two things we'll be all right."

Catcher Grant Koch, who drove in both Arkansas runs on Saturday, was asked about losing another pair of one-run games to the Bulldogs to close out the regular season.

"Yeah, it's always frustrating," he said. "I think that's kind of been the theme on the road for us this year, but winning on the road is hard in general.

"One-run games comes down to pitches and they won a few more pitches than we did and got that run. It's not that we think they're a better team than us, it just came to that."

Van Horn and Koch said the bye into Wednesday's double-elimination round should be good.

"It's always good to get a top four seed," Koch said. "That means you're playing well. Hopefully we can go in there and make a run. The SEC Tournament is one of those things where you have to take it one game at a time."

The Razorbacks lost their opener at the SEC Tournament last year, 4-3 to Mississippi State, before reeling off three victories, including a 12-0 no-hitter against Auburn and a 16-0 run-rule rout of eventual College World Series champion Florida, before falling 4-2 to LSU in the final.

"It's big," Van Horn said of the bye. "You get to set up your pitching a little better. You don't have to worry about, hey, if we don't win we're going home. You're playing two games and you can set some things up for the next week."

The Razorbacks will enter the postseason with a .304 batting average, second-best in the SEC and No. 12 in the country, as well as 77 home runs, which is tied for third in the nation and the SEC with Florida and Kentucky.

Junior Blaine Knight completed the regular season with a 9-0 record, second-best in the country for unbeaten pitchers behind North Carolina-Greensboro's Matt Frisbee (10-0).

Sports on 05/21/2018


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