Published: Friday, May 27, 2022
HOOVER, Ala. — The Arkansas Razorbacks made it to Friday at the SEC Baseball Tournament.
Not by winning a loser’s bracket game but due to the elements that have been wreaking havoc on the tournament schedule, the University of Arkansas’ second game here was re-scheduled to today at 9:30 am
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Arkansas (38-17) will take on Florida, which had one hit in losing a 10-0 run-rule game to Texas A&M in Thursday’s opener.
Perhaps a day away will give Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn a better shot at returning to the field after he missed Wednesday’s 4-3 loss to Alabama due to an undisclosed illness, which sources have told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette was not covid-19.
A UA said Van Horn was progressing and still resting comfortably Thursday.
Arkansas is expected to start senior right-hander Connor Noland (5-4, 3.75 ERA), while Florida is expected to counter with 6-5 right-hander Nick Pogue (3-3, 4.91) in their fourth meeting of the season. Noland allowed one hit over seven innings in an 8-1 win at the Gators in a series opener on April 7. Pogue has not pitched against the Razorbacks this season.
The Razorbacks will have to tighten up defensively and issue fewer walks no matter who, when and where they’re playing after stumbling into the postseason with five losses in their last seven regular-season games and their first three-game losing streak of the season .
Key errors by second baseman Robert Moore and catcher Michael Turner directly led to three Alabama runs and pitcher Will McEntire’s failure to get his glove on a sliding base runner in a rundown helped gift the Crimson Tide another run Thursday.
“You’re going to go through ups and downs on the mound, at the plate and defensively through the course of a season,” Arkansas pitching coach Matt Hobbs said during Wednesday’s postgame news conference. “It’s unfortunate that it’s happening right now. I don’t think it’s something that will continue with this team. I think the defense is just too good for that to happen.”
Arkansas outfielder Chris Lanzilli, who is sporting one of the hottest bats on the team along with shortstop Jalen Battles, said the Razorbacks are better than they’ve shown in the past week.
“We’re obviously disappointed with the three losses,” Lanzilli said Wednesday night. “We know we can do better. We just have a lot more talent than how we’re playing.
“The conversations that are going on, we’re just trying to build each other up and obviously recover. There’s only so much you can do, but we have so much talent, and we can get there for sure. We have confidence.”
Arkansas made another defensive mess in an 18-5 loss at Alabama that capped the regular season, with another pair of errors, plus mental mistakes, more walks and hit batters.
“We have made mistakes in big spots,” Hobbs said. “It shows up because you expect it to be so good and it has been so good. We have a heck of a lot of confidence in our defense. We’re in a little bit of a slump right now, but we will come out of it.”
The Razorbacks dropped two of three games at Florida on April 7-9 in a series that had swung decidedly in Arkansas’ favor in recent seasons.
The Razorbacks’ 8-1 win at Florida in the opener was their sixth consecutive win in the series and their eighth in the previous 10 meetings. However, the Gators won the next two games 7-2 and 9-7.
The winner of today’s game will take on the loser of the Alabama-Texas A&M game slated as the third game today.
Arkansas has a 3-7 record against the other teams on its side of the SEC Tournament bracket.
Both Baseball America and D1Baseball.com projected the Razorbacks will play on the road as a No. 2 seed in an NCAA regional next week. If that is the case, Arkansas will travel for a regional for the first time since winning the 2015 NCAA Stillwater Regional over St. John’s.