Hogs host Missouri State prior to key road trip to Auburn

What an exhilarating weekend it was at Baum-Walker Stadium, with the Arkansas Razorbacks taking two out of three from Ole Miss.

Despite the fact the Rebels are mired at the bottom of the SEC West barrel, Hog fans should always enjoy winning a series against Ole Miss.

The 4-2 loss to the Rebels in the opening game, despite a fine performance by right-handed senior pitcher Connor Noland, should underscore that fact.

Next up for the Diamond Hogs

Opponent: Missouri State
When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 3
Where: Baum-Walker Stadium
Streaming: SEC Network Plus
Radio: 92.1 FM / AM 1590 (more)

Upcoming games

May 6 – at Auburn, 7 p.m. (SEC+)
May 7 – at Auburn, 4:30 p.m. (SEC)
May 8 – at Auburn, 1 p.m. (SEC+)

Considering it took a dramatic walk-off, three-run homer by ninth-hole designated hitter Kendall Diggs to secure Saturday’s 6-3 victory, and Sunday the Razorbacks needed five innings of scoreless work by freshman reliever Brady Tygart to notch the 4-3 series-clinching victory is proof positive of just how competitive the SEC West is and just how resilient this Razorback baseball team is.

Diggs and Tygart offered up moments that were highlights for this season, not just that series.

Winning is not coming easy for the Hogs (34-10, 14-7 SEC), who are ranked No. 3 by the USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 4 by D1 Baseball, despite having an RPI ranking of just No. 25.

Yet, Van Horn’s Razorbacks are still getting it done week by week despite the fact their hitting isn’t where they want it to be or where they expected it to be going into the season.

The Razorbacks’ team batting average of .280 is middle of the pack among SEC squads. The Hogs often count on home runs to drive in runs rather than base hits, but that seems to be the nature of the college game today. That’s just an observation and not necessarily a criticism.

Who doesn’t dig the long ball?

The Hogs make up a lot of ground with stellar defensive play and reliable pitching by a staff rather than the one-man gang Matt Cronin became last season, as magnificent as he was.

The Razorbacks currently boast a .984 fielding percentage, which ties them for second in the nation with Mississippi State behind only Oregon State at .988.

That’s strong stuff. It keeps the Hogs in games and has often pushed them over the top in close contests like we saw last weekend against the Rebels.

Second baseman Robert Moore and and shortstop Jalen Battles are an exciting duo to watch do their thing, and Brady Slavens and Peyton Stovall are steady at first base. The Hogs turned nine double plays over the weekend against the Rebels, and with the scores to all three games being tight, everyone of them was necessary.

With the series victory over Ole Miss came the spoils on Monday with two Hog garnering honors from the SEC office. Arkansas center fielder Brayden Webb earned SEC Player of the Week honors for going 8 for 14 with 2 home runs, 1 double, 4 RBI and 4 runs scored. Razorback fans expect something exciting to happen when Webb comes to the plate, and he seldom disappoints.

Tygart earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors for his role in the Ole Miss series victory. Tygart, who hails from Hernando, Miss., earned the win with a two-inning outing Saturday and earned a three-inning save Sunday. Tygart allowed 1 hit, walked 6 and struck out 7 against the Rebels.

Tygart is a fun Hog to watch on the mound. He looks like a bundle of energy about to explode. I personally love how fast he works. He hardly gives the hitter time to think before releasing that crafty curve or firing in a fast ball.

The Hogs host a midweek game with Missouri State at 6:30 p.m. tonight at Baum-Walker Stadium, but, of course, the big games come this weekend with a pivotal trip to Auburn for a three-game series that could go a long way in deciding the SEC West championship with just three weekends left in the regular season.

The Tigers (31-14, 12-9) are in a three-way tie with LSU (29-14, 12-9) and Texas A&M (12-9, 27-15) for second in the West, two games behind the Razorbacks.

If the Hogs win the series, they will remain in the driver’s seat going into the final two weeks of the regular season. If they falter, all bets are off, and the divisional race gets really messy and really interesting.

It’s a big week for the Razorbacks, and it all starts tonight against Missouri State, a squad looking upset the Hogs’ apple cart if they are already looking ahead to this weekend’s monster series at Auburn.