Injuries continue to dog Diamond Hogs for trip to Starkville

“The Season of the Injuries” continues for the Arkansas Razorbacks in their three major men’s sports tonight when the Diamond Hogs travel to Starkville, Miss. with their bullpen numbers down and without their starting second baseman Peyton Stovall. Regular Friday night starter Hunter Holland will also rest his legs in the opener.

First pitch in the series is at 6 p.m. and can be streamed on ESPN/SEC +. Saturday’s game is set to be televised at 6 p.m. on ESPN2. The final game is back to streaming on ESPN/SEC+ at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Key injuries plagued the Razorbacks’ efforts in football and basketball, and the series of unfortunate events has also been a running storyline on the diamond this year.

Neither head football coach Sam Pittman’s nor head basketball coach Eric Musselman’s Razorbacks had the type of regular-seasons fans anticipated directly because of injuries. Both squad bounced back well in the postseason, though.

While the injury bug has bit Dave Van Horn’s Hogs just as hard this season, the depth and strength of the Razorbacks’ roster has kept the Razorbacks in the top 10 all season long in the polls and the RPI.

However, even the strongest of programs can sustain only so much adversity. That thought will no doubt be put to the test this weekend in Starkville with Van Horn, pitching coach Matt Hobbs, and hitting coach Nate Thompson working to get the most out their starting rotation and bullpen as pitchers and fielders continue to suffer injuries.

Razorback Baseball

No. 6 Arkansas (33-12, 14-7 SEC)
Opponent: Mississippi State
When: 6 p.m. Friday, May 5
Where: David Wade Stadium, Starkville, Miss.

Up next:

6 p.m. Saturday — at Mississippi State (ESPN2)
1 p.m. Sunday — at Mississippi State (SEC+)

The Razorbacks (33-12, 14-7 SEC) are working talented right-hander Brady Tygart back into to shape slowly after he missed the bulk the season, but lost the services of reliever Dylan Carter in an 8-6, 11-inning loss to Lipscomb Tuesday at North Little Rock.

Stovall is the latest every-day Razorback to need time off to mend an injury.

“Stovall probably will not play this weekend,” Van Horn said. “I don’t even think I’m going to put him on the roster. It’ll let him rest that shoulder another five or six days. He’s not ready yet. You’re going to have either [Peyton Holt] in there or possibly [Harold] Coll. So we’ve got to have some guys pick it up.”

The Hogs will also be without the services of even-day starters in the outfield Tavian Josenberger and Jared Wenger, who usually sandwiched Stovall as the Hogs’ top three in their batting order.

“Yeah, you know, hitting, it’s so hard and pitching is so good in the league, stuff is so good” Van Horn said. “It’s hard to get them all rolling. But if you can get four or five guys in your lineup that have a good weekend, man, you’ll be tough to beat. Because runs are hard to get now.

“You never know when you’re going to break loose and just have that weekend where it just gels, and you’ve got six guys that are getting after it, just everything’s going their way. They’re confident and seeing the ball good. I don’t know it’s going to happen. I know we would love it with just all that’s gone on, you know with the injuries.”

Hagen Smith (6-1, 2.54 ERA) will get the start against the Bulldogs (24-20, 6-15 SEC), who have struggled worse than the Razorbacks on the mound this year. Cade Smith (1-1, 5.54 ERA) is the Bulldogs likely starter Friday.

Brady Tygart will likely get a start this weekend but will not go long — no more than 45 pitches if that — with Will McEntire (6-2, 5.82 ERA) probably relieving him.

“First on the pitching rotation, what we’re going to do is we’re going to let Hollan have a couple more days to rest,” Van Horn said. “We’ll either throw him Game 2 or Game 3, hopefully and let that leg continue to rest.

“So we’re going to just flip it. We’ll start Hagen Smith, and then we’ll just TBA it for Saturday and Sunday. I mean obviously there’s a really good chance Tygart gets the ball in one of those games, and then we’ll just piggyback off of him. We’re just not sure which day we want to do it yet.”

Bulldogs head coach Chris Lemonis fired his pitching coach Scott Foxhall this week. Will such a move excite the Bulldogs’ bullpen, or will it create chaos? There is no way to tell until the Razorbacks and Mississippi State get on the field tonight.

It certainly will be interesting to see how the Hogs continue to handle the adversity that has come their way this season in terms of injuries. To keep pace in the thickening race to host a NCAA Regional, the Razorbacks need to win two out of three this weekend if at all possible.

Next up for the Hogs are two gigantic series at home against South Carolina and then on the road at Vanderbilt.

South Carolina (35-8, 14-6 SEC) is ranked No, 3 in the D1 Baseball poll and No. 2 in the RPI. Vanderbilt (32-11, 16-6 SEC) is ranked No. 5 in the D1 Baseball poll and No. 5 in the RPI.

That sets up a fantastic but also very difficult finish to this regular season for the Razorbacks. One has to hope the Hogs are healthy enough to take advantage of the opportunities ahead of them.

SEC West Standings

LSU 15-5 36-8
Arkansas 14-7 33-12
Alabama 10-12 31-15
Auburn 9-12 25-18
Texas A&M 9-12 25-19
Miss. St. 6-15 24-20
Ole Miss 5-17 24-21

SEC East Standings

Vanderbilt 16-6 33-12
South Carolina 14-6 36-8
Florida 14-7 36-10
Kentucky 11-10 31-14
Tennessee 11-10 31-14
Georgia 8-13 25-20
Missouri 6-16 26-19