Mother Nature cost the Arkansas Razorbacks baseball team a possible three-game sweep and an all-important Southeastern Conference victory on Sunday. After taking the first two games from bottom-feeding Georgia, Sunday’s contest in Athens was washed out. And while nothing is certain in college baseball, the Hogs certainly would have liked their chances against the struggling Bulldogs.
Arkansas won the first two games thanks to exceptional pitching. Barrett Astin fired eight shutout innings on Friday, while Ryne Stanek pitched into the seventh on Saturday, giving up the one run. Colby Suggs notched saves in each game.
The Razorbacks baseball team struggled on offense, but managed to scratch across a couple of runs each day. At the same time, they flashed some leather and avoided costly errors. This is the kind of form that carried Arkansas to the College World Series last season, and perhaps the Hogs are peaking at the right time again in 2013.
Looking down the road makes the cancelled Georgia game sting a little more. The Hogs are 13-7 in the SEC, but their overall record has suffered from lackluster non-conference play. Padding the win total, from whatever the source, but especially in SEC action, will be crucial should the Hogs be considered for hosting a regional. Of course, there is much baseball to be played – three more SEC series and the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala. – but the Hogs have the third best record in the league and have an opportunity to play themselves into hosting more games at Baum Stadium.
Arkansas’ midweek game with Oklahoma was also washed out. The Hogs are set to host Missouri State at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday. The Razorbacks travel to Lexington this weekend for a series with Kentucky. Like the Hogs, the Wildcats climbed high in the polls early in the season. Kentucky has slipped even farther, barely hanging in the top 25 with an SEC record of 9-12.
The Arkansas Travelers won four of seven games on their road trip over the last week. That trip ends with a game at Springfield today. The Travs return to Dickey-Stephens Park for a four-game set with the Tulsa Drillers starting Tuesday. Matt Long is the Travs’ leading hitter, batting .333 with three homers and 17 RBIs, all team bests. Jarrett Grube ran his record to 4-0, as he and Kevin Johnson combined on a four-hit shutout of Springfield on Sunday.
Northwest Arkansas dropped a tough 4-3 decision to Tulsa on Sunday, which resulted in a 3-4 record for the past week. Springfield comes to Arvest Ballpark on Tuesday to begin a four-game series, followed by four with the Travelers starting on Saturday. Angel Franco leads the Naturals with a .320 average, while Matt Fields has mashed four home runs.
The Travs are one game back of first-place Tulsa in the Texas League North division, with the Naturals four games out of first.
Notes: The Hendrix Warriors’ season came to an end Sunday in the Southern Athletic Association tournament in Jackson, Miss. Hendrix won its first two games and was in great position to make the tourney’s finals series, but host Millsaps came back and beat the Warriors twice on Sunday. Hendrix’s season ends at 21-22. … Five Arkansas schools are among the six who will play for the Great American Conference tournament title this weekend in Enid, Okla. Southern Arkansas won the regular season title with a 23-7 conference mark. Southwestern Oklahoma State was second, followed by Arkansas Tech, Henderson State, Arkansas-Monticello and Harding. … Central Arkansas kept up its winning ways in the Southland Conference, taking two of three from McNeese State in Lake Charles, La. The Bears improved to 31-11, 10-8 in league play. They are two games back of league-leading Lamar and Sam Houston St., and one game back of Southeast Louisiana, which visits Conway for a series this weekend.
Coaches, SIDs, baseball fans from around the state: got a tip or interesting note? Let me hear from you.