To some it might feel like the wheels are coming off the No. 6 Arkansas Razorbacks’ wagon after dropping all three games of last weekend’s series to the Georgia Bulldogs.
And to be sure, the Bulldogs, who crept out of the SEC East cellar with the sweep, ate up the Hogs’ pitching, swatting home runs left and right.
It looked like the Razorbacks (30-10, 11-7 SEC) had Game 3 locked up with an 8-4 lead going into the ninth, but the Razorbacks surrendered a grand slam that tied the game and on the next pitch gave up another home run to fall 9-8 in shocking fashion.
The SEC Network posted a note Monday on its social media platforms stating that since the 2019 season, SEC squads were 0-340 in league games when trailing by four or more runs entering the ninth inning. Unfortunately the Hogs were on the dubious end of that streak ending.
The trip home from Athens had to be a long one mentally for the Hogs and their coaching staff.
Just like in football and basketball this season, injuries have been an obstacle for the Diamond Hogs. It hasn’t shown as much on the field because of the strength and depth of Dave Van Horn’s program. Despite the hiccup in Athens, pitching coach Matt Hobbs has done an excellent job of guiding Arkansas’ pitching this year with a shorter deck than expected.
No. 6 Arkansas (30-10, 11-7 SEC)
Opponent: at Missouri State (22-16, 11-4 MVC)
When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 25
Where: Hammons Field, Springfield, Mo.
7 p.m. Saturday — Texas A&M (ESPNU)
6 p.m. Friday — Texas A&M (ESPN+)
Van Horn and his staff have managed losing three of their top pitchers for the bulk of the season but still kept the Razorbacks in the top two spots of the SEC West and in the nation’s top 10 all season.
The good news is that closer Brady Tygart could begin his return to play this week when the Hogs’ host Texas A&M (25-15, 9-9 SEC).
The bad news is that injuries are beginning to stack up with Arkansas’ everyday players. Catcher Parker Rowland is having back issues, center fielder Tavian Josenberger has a hamstring issue, and outfield Jared Wenger continues to nurse a broken thumb.
Josenberger and Wenger, of course, are part of the meat in the Razorbacks’ preferred batting lineup. Wenger was batting .351 with the team lead of 12 homers before the injury. Josenberger is hitting .322 with 7 homers.
Before the back issues, Rowland was settling in at catcher in a very good way, lending a consistency that a pitching staff and a team as a whole relies upon.
All the Hogs’ issues seemed to come to a head at Athens. Though ranked at the bottom of the SEC East going into last weekend’s series, Georgia was still a capable team with an Rating Percentage Index of 38.
The three victories over the Razorbacks catapulted the Bulldogs up to No. 18 in the latest RPI report. The Hogs remained at No. 5 in the RPI and are ranked No. 6 in the Coaches Poll, and around there in a host of others.
As always, Van Horn isn’t about making excuses when his team falters. He expects his squad to perform at the program’s expected high level no matter who is playing or who is injured.
There might be an adjustment period for a game or so, but I certainly expect Van Horn’s Hogs to rise to the occasion in spite of the adversity it is facing, particularly if these injuries aren’t of the season-ending nature.
Wenger reportedly should return in early May. Certainly back and hamstring issues that Rowland and Josenberger are suffering can linger, but that just creates opportunity for other Razorbacks to rise to the occasion.
The Hogs have an interesting non-conference game at Missouri State at 6:30 this evening. The Hogs and Bears have had lively series over the years, with Missouri State (22-16, 11-4 MVC) whipping the Hogs, 6-4, at Baum-Walker Stadium last year.
Don’t be surprised if the Bears upend Arkansas again. With Missouri State holding an RPI of 97 at the moment, this is a huge game for them. A victory over the Hogs could be a tipping point for them to make NCAA field if they do not win the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament for an automatic bid. Currently the Bears are trailing Indiana State by three games in the league race.
No doubt the Razorbacks seek to win every game they play, but in the grand scheme, this week’s home series against the Texas A&M Aggies (No. 30 RPI) is the much bigger concern.
However, after dropping three games over the weekend, tonight’s game with the Bears might mean a bit more than normal to the Hogs, who could use some momentum with the Aggies coming to town.
A&M visits Baum-Walker Stadium Thursday through Saturday. Thursday’s game is set for 7 p.m. and will be televised by ESPNU. First pitch Friday is at 6 p.m., and contest can be streamed on ESPN/SEC +. Saturday’s 11 a.m. game will be televised on the SEC Network.
LSU 12-5 32-7
Arkansas 11-7 30-10
Alabama 9-9 29-12
Texas A&M 9-9 25-15
Auburn 7-11 23-16
Miss. St. 6-12 23-17
Ole Miss 3-15 21-19
South Car. 13-4 34-6
Vanderbilt 13-5 29-11
Kentucky 11-7 30-9
Florida 11-7 31-10
Tennessee 8-10 26-14
Georgia 7-11 23-17
Missouri 5-13 23-16