Chris Murray: No. 24 Razorbacks Fighting for NCAA Life?


The Arkansas Razorbacks won four of their five games in the last week, including two out of three from the no. 11 Vanderbilt Commodores, and re-entered the polls at no. 24. Yet, much of the talk this week has centered around the Hogs being firmly on the NCAA bubble and the Razorbacks fighting for their post-season lives.

Arkansas’ RPI is hovering around 50, and it is mainly that low due to five mid-week games against lowly Grambling State and Mississippi Valley State. Those two teams are near the very bottom of the RPI rankings. According to many, Arkansas is in danger of missing the field of 64, with NCAA Regionals set to begin May 30.

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn has been quoted as saying it is difficult to get teams to Fayetteville for midweek games. That has turned into a referendum on Arkansas not playing in-state teams. We’re not going to be having that discussion here (they probably should). Regardless, Arkansas has brought in quality non-conference opponents in UNLV and Nebraska. Perhaps looking to Oklahoma – for OU, OSU, Tulsa and Oral Roberts – would be a stopgap measure (though the first two would certainly require return trips).

And while this column is, shall we say, a little Arkie-centric, Arkansas surely passes the eye test as one of the best 64 teams in the country. The idea of leaving out the Hogs at this point sure does not pass the smell test. If this is the kind of result that college baseball RPI is going to produce, maybe it’s time to get rid of it.

Trey Killian got unexpected run support on Friday, as the Hogs scored four in the first inning. Eric Fisher continued his power stroke ways, clubbing a three-run homer as the Hogs won 6-2. Killian must be the best 2-6 pitcher in the country.

Vanderbilt claimed the middle game of the series behind converted closer Carson Fulmer. John Norwood’s fourth-inning homer accounted for all of Vandy’s runs. Arkansas pushed across a run in the eighth (after a poorly timed bunt stalled a seventh-inning chance), but went down in order in the ninth.

On Sunday, Chris Oliver pitched six shutout innings before allowing a Commodore run in the seventh. Zach Jackson and Michael Gunn shut the door with 2.2 innings of scoreless relief. Arkansas made the most of its four hits, and took another series win over a ranked team. The Hogs added two blowout wins midweek over Northwestern State of the Southland Conference.

Arkansas has a chance, presumably, to bolster its NCAA resume this weekend when it hosts the Auburn Tigers. Or maybe not. This series presents the Hogs an opportunity to get back over .500 in the SEC, which one would assume would be a positive for postseason play. Game times are tonight at 6:35, Saturday at 6:05, and Sunday at 1:05.

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UCA gave a jolt to its Southland Conference hopes with a three-game sweep of McNeese State last weekend at Bear Stadium. The Bears are now 10-8 in the Southland, good for a five-way tie for fourth. Three teams sit atop the league at 12-6. The Bears head this weekend to Natchitoches, La., to face Northwestern State, which is also 10-8.

The Bears ran their win streak to five games on Tuesday with a 4-3 win over Arkansas State in Conway. UALR snapped that streak the next night with a 7-6 victory at Hogan Field. No punches were thrown.

Arkansas State remains three games out of first in the Sun Belt Conference after sweeping UL-Monroe last weekend in Jonesboro. That allowed the Red Wolves to make up a game on with UL-Lafayette, which took two of three at UT-Arlington. The Ragin’ Cajuns are 37-5 overall, and likely a national seed. ASU travels to Atlanta to take on Georgia State this weekend.

UALR claimed a series win last weekend, taking two of three games from Troy in Little Rock. The Trojans will try to make it two straight series wins this weekend at Western Kentucky.

Razorbacks Fighting for NCAA Life


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