Diamond Hogs treading water

The good news for Dave Van Horn’s baseball Razorbacks is that they did not lose ground in the SEC standings last weekend by winning a single game in their three-game series with No. 2 Texas A&M. The bad news is that the Hogs didn’t gain any ground either.

With a 26-18 overall record but a 7-14 SEC mark, the Hogs are like the hero from an old Saturday afternoon movie serial who is left clinging for life on a cliff as the gravel and dirt begin to give way and the screen fades to black. We’re going to have to tune back in the next three weeks to find out what’s going to happen.

With just three regular-season SEC series left to play, the Razorbacks are in a desperate four-way, 10th-place tie with Missouri, Georgia and Auburn.

With the SEC Tournament, held May 24-29 at Hoover, Ala., only taking 12 teams, at least one of those four teams is going to fall off the cliff and not make the field. A second might not make it either, if Tennessee (6-15) can find a way to crawl over them by making up two games over the next three weekends.

While the Razorbacks’ situation remains precarious at best, the Hogs are playing better baseball. The Razorbacks’ 9-5 victory over the Aggies in the first game of the series Saturday stands as Arkansas’ best victory of the season, and the second game, which the Aggies took 11-8, was a tighter contest than the final tally.

Unfortunately, being a little short has been an uncomfortable characteristic of this team all season. Not plating baserunners and failing to get critical outs has been all too prevalent the entire year.

Two things are in Arkansas’ favor going down the stretch. First, Arkansas did sweep Auburn, so if there is any sort of a tie with the Tigers, the Hogs will get the nod. Secondly, Arkansas’ next two SEC opponents, No. 13 LSU and Alabama, aren’t quite as salty as the Aggies.

Don’t get me wrong. LSU (28-14, 11-10) is a fine baseball team especially at Baton Rouge, La., and Alabama (25-20, 10-11), which visits Baum Stadium May 13-15, is very good too, but A&M is better.

However, there doesn’t seem to be a whisker’s difference between the Aggies and No. 3 Mississippi State (30-14-1, 12-9), which the Razorbacks face at Starkville, Miss., in their final regular-season series.

If the Razorbacks could manage to win two of the last three series, that likely will be enough to get them in the SEC Tournament. Winning one series and not being swept in the other two, might do the trick, too. It’s hard to say with the league knotted so tightly and so many variables in play.

While fighting for a berth just to get into the SEC Tournament isn’t where Van Horn or Hog fans like to see their team, it could be a very exciting race to the end of the regular season.

Before the Razorbacks head down to Baton Rouge, they travel to Springfield, Mo., Tuesday to face Missouri State at 6:35 p.m. The Bears return the game May 17 at Baum Stadium.