Diamond Hogs have time to improve at the plate

Mason Molina (Arkansas Athletics)

It’s hard to know what to think about the Arkansas Razorbacks following their 2-1 performance in the Kubota College Baseball series last weekend at Globe Life Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

In short, the Hogs’ starting pitching was outstanding, their defense was strong, but the offense was lacking. After seven games, the Razorbacks’ team batting average is .248.

The No. 2 Razorbacks (5-2) scored just enough to have a winning record in the tournament, but their margins of victory were so narrow that head coach Dave Van Horn has to be a little concerned.

The Razorbacks won a 5-4 decision over Oregon State thanks to a program record-tying 17-strikeout performance by Hagen Smith last Friday. Smith earned Pitcher of the Week honors from the SEC for his performance.

Oklahoma State outlasted the Hogs last Saturday in a 14-inning marathon to win the game, 2-1, thanks to a suicide squeeze for the game winner.

Mason Molina pitched a near perfect five innings of no-hit baseball to allow the Hogs to go up 4-0 over Michigan on Sunday, but the Wolverines’ late-game heroics made the Razorbacks and their fans sweat the final outcome by scoring three runs late.

Next up for the Razorbacks

Opponent: Grambling
When: 3 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 27
Where: Baum-Walker Stadium, Fayetteville
TV: SEC Network +

Next 3 games

March 1 – Murray State, 3 p.m. (SEC+)
March 2 – Murray State, 2 p.m. (SEC+)
March 3 – Murray State, 1 p.m. (SEC+)

Arkansas held on to win 4-3, but Arkansas’ inability to drive in runs all weekend is somewhat of a concern even though it is very early in the season.

A play or two here or there and the Hogs could have gone 0-3 last weekend despite excellent starting pitching by Smith, Brady Tygart, and Molina.

The Razorbacks retained their No. 2 ranking by D1 Baseball and Perfect Game, but Baseball America ranks the No. 3, while the NCBWA and USA Today Coaches poll has them penciled in at No. 5.

Rankings mean little at this point in the season. Winning trumps everything else.

While Hog fans are free to worry about Arkansas’ hitting at this juncture, it is still early in the season, and the competition last weekend at Arlington was stout.

The Hogs have eight home games in a row to work out the kinks before opening their SEC schedule March 15-17 against Missouri, also in the friendly confines of Baum-Walker Stadium.

Van Horn and hitting coach Nate Thompson will no doubt tinker with the batting lineup over the next few weeks, starting with today’s 3 p.m. game against Grambling, until they and the Hogs are comfortable.

Hitting dry spells are just a part of the game. It’s better to deal with one at this time of the season than to come out of gates blazing in February only to run out of fuel before May or June.

Remember two years ago, Ole Miss struggled through much of the regular season before catching fire in May and riding that heat wave to a national title.

Certainly this year’s struggles on the gridiron and the hardwood are at the forefront of Razorback fans’ minds, but it’s way too early to push the panic button with this Razorback baseball team.