Diamond Hogs hanging on to postseason hopes, barely

Zach Jackson / ArkansasRazorbacks.com

By taking two of three from No. 19 Kentucky last week in Lexington, the Arkansas Razorbacks improved their chances of securing a spot in the SEC Baseball Tournament, but the Hogs are hanging on by the hair of their chins.

At 24-16 overall and 6-12 in SEC play, the Razorbacks are one game ahead of Auburn (5-13 SEC) in the SEC Western Division. They Hogs are two games ahead of Missouri (4-12) and are tied with Tennessee (6-12) of the East.

If the season ended today, the Razorbacks would make the SEC Baseball Tournament 12-team field, which takes the winners of each division, but then selects the next 10 teams based on record regardless of their finish within a division. The SEC Baseball Tournament will be played May 24-29 in Hoover, Ala.

While there have been times in the past when an SEC team still received a bid to the NCAA Tournament without playing in the league tourney, it was before the SEC Tournament field expanded to 12 in 2013.

With the Hogs six-games under .500 in SEC play, it might seem silly to even be considering post-season play at this juncture. However, Dave Van Horn’s club still has a shot at keeping Arkansas’ string of 13 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances alive under the veteran coach, if the Razorbacks finish the season strong.

It will be difficult, though. Three of Arkansas’ final four SEC series are against teams ranked in the top 10 of last week’s Baseball America poll. The Razorbacks play host to No. 3 Texas A&M (32-8, 12-6) in a three-game series that begins Friday at Baum Stadium. On May 6, the Hogs open a series with No. 5 LSU (27-13, 10-8) at Baton Rouge, La. Arkansas returns home to host unranked Alabama (24-17, 9-9) on May 13 and closes out the regular season at No. 7 Mississippi State (27-13-1, 10-8) on May 19.

You would be hard pressed to find a tougher schedule for any team in college baseball than what the Razorbacks will face in the final month of the season. The good news if the Hogs can hold their own is that their RPI will only continue to improve. Obviously winning each series is the goal, but the key to keeping their postseason hopes alive is to avoid being swept in any of the series and then winning two out of the four.

If the Hogs can do that, they likely will be in the SEC Tournament, and that will give them a shot to work their way into a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Before the Aggies arrive in town, the Razorbacks will have a shot to improve their RPI. Oklahoma State visits Baum Stadium for a single game at 6: 35 p.m. Tuesday. The Cowboys are 25-14 on the season and 9-6 on Big 12 play, which is good enough for third place now. The Razorbacks suffered a 5-4 loss in the first game of the home-and-home series on March 29, and would like to even up the series.