What a difference a weekend can make.
Going into last weekend’s series at Alabama, the Arkansas Razorbacks appeared to have an even chance at winning the SEC’s Western Division, and the Hogs looked like a probable host for at least a first-round NCAA Regional.
But, after a lost weekend in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in which the Hogs surrendered two of three to a struggling Crimson Tide, who barely qualified for this week’s SEC Tournament, the Hogs are left searching for answers as what started as a very promising season seems to be spiraling in the wrong direction.
Next up for the Diamond Hogs
When: 1 p.m. Wednesday, May 25
Where: Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, Hoover, Ala.
Streaming: SEC Network
The No. 10 Hogs (38-16, 18-12 SEC) open play in the SEC Tournament at 1 p.m. Wednesday in Hoover, Ala., against Alabama. The Crimson Tide beat Georgia 5-3 in a rain-delayed game on Tuesday.
The Razorbacks finished second in the West despite struggling at the plate all year. The Hogs batting average of .273 is just average for a Razorback squad that was expected to be much better at the plate this year.
Arkansas’ starting pitching has also been sluggish as the SEC season wound down instead of improving as the season wore on as normal by a Dave Van Horn-coached squad.
But even those struggles hardly explains Arkansas’ flat and frankly embarrassing performance last Saturday at Tuscaloosa in which Alabama clobbered the Hogs, 18-5. Yeah, 18-5.
That’s not the type of score any team wants to carry into postseason play. Van Horn was steaming after the game in his Zoom teleconference.
The no-nonsense coach had few answers in the moment, but no doubt the Razorbacks have spent the last few days in Hoover correcting their mental and physical errors in hopes of a solid showing in the SEC Tournament.
Despite their struggles with starting pitching, Arkansas played well last Thursday, posting a 7-3 victory. The Hogs lost 8-6 to Alabama in the second game, but it wasn’t a bad performance. At least, it wasn’t like Saturday’s 18-5 uncharacteristic stinker.
Arkansas’ RPI rating is No. 33 Tuesday morning. It’s not looking good for the Razorbacks to host a Regional this year.
That’s a shame. Baum-Walker Stadium was not built or upgraded to sit empty during the postseason.
D1 Baseball is predicting the Razorbacks will be a No. 2 seed in the Stillwater Regional, which wouldn’t be a bad draw for the Hogs. Even though gas prices are soaring, it’s a relatively easy drive over to Oklahoma State’s campus for Diamond Hog fans in Northwest Arkansas.
Could things change with a good showing in the SEC Tournament?
Maybe but with a second-place finish in the SEC West to a surging Texas A&M squad and a final RPI likely outside of the Top 20, it’s hard to justify a host role for the Hogs. Hopefully my assessment is dead wrong.
Right now, though, Van Horn is likely more concerned with how his Hogs respond after a tough weekend than where their regional destination will be.
Arkansas needs a good showing in the SEC tourney just to get back on track wherever the NCAA sends them to play next week.