Chris Murray: Razorbacks stumble at Auburn; SEC tourney looming large

Chris Murray Bio
The Arkansas Razorbacks secured the no. 3 seed in the upcoming Southeastern Conference baseball tournament. That’s the good news coming out of the final weekend of SEC league play.

The bad news for the Hogs is they dropped two out of three games to cellar-dwelling Auburn, an untimely result considering that Arkansas is solidly on the bubble when it comes to securing an NCAA Regional hosting bid.

Arkansas’ offense was anemic through the first two games, scoring just one run. Fortunately, that was good enough to split, as Ryne Stanek pitched the Hogs to a 1-0 win on Friday. Auburn had won the first game on Thursday by a 3-0 score, as the Razorbacks were unable to get anything going at the plate.

That set up Saturday’s rubber game. The Hogs led 3-1 in the fifth when the bottom dropped out. Auburn easily batted around and scored eight runs – the most Arkansas has given up in a single inning this season by a wide margin. The Tigers went on to win 11-6, solidifying their own NCAA resume.

With the league’s expansion, the SEC tournament has a new look. Twelve of the SEC’s 14 teams now make the tournament. The top four get byes, and the 5 through 12 seeds play a single-elimination round to make it into the double-elimination pool. Arkansas awaits the Ole Miss-Kentucky winner in a Wednesday contest set for 9:30 a.m.

Despite their stellar SEC record (18-11), the Razorbacks’ overall record is not so impressive, especially considering the lofty preseason expectations. Projections from online sources seem split at this time as to whether Arkansas would host a regional. The Hogs could likely get off that bubble with a deep run in Hoover this week. Arkansas is on the same side of the bracket with LSU, the SEC West winner with a 48-8 overall record. But the Hogs played the Tigers tough at Baum stadium, dropping the rubber game in extra innings. Vanderbilt (48-7 overall), awaits in the opposite half.

Would two wins be enough to nab a Fayetteville regional site? Possibly. A two-and-out performance would likely see a repeat of the 2011 season, where the Hogs were shocked to be sent on the road, that time to Tempe, Ariz., for a super-tough Arizona State squad.

The Arkansas Travelers ripped off eight straight wins recently, and took over first place in the Texas League North Division. Springfield halted Arkansas’ winning streak with a 7-0 decision on Saturday (which happened to be my first time seeing the Travs this season; they may not ask me back). Tim Cooney was impressive in six innings of shutout ball. Take heart, Cardinals fans, there are more prospects in the pipeline. On Sunday, Arkansas bounced back to win 5-3, thereby holding on to first place.

The Travs took the final three games from the Drillers in Tulsa, then swept four straight from the Northwest Arkansas Naturals at Arvest Park, limiting the Naturals to five runs in four games. Arkansas then won the opener against Springfield on Friday, running its streak to eight. Arkansas hosts Springfield tonight at 7:10 before hitting the road for a week. The Travs return home May 28.

It was a rough week for the Naturals, as they lost five straight games before beating Tulsa 11-4 on Sunday. The Drillers won 7-1 on Sunday, and the two meet at 11 a.m. today at Arvest. The Naturals then have a six-game road trip before returning home on May 28.
The Travs are 1.5 games up on Springfield. NWA is now 9.5 games back.


  • Southern Arkansas was eliminated from the Central Regional of the NCAA Division II tournament in Mankato, Minn. After losing their opener to Missouri Western, SAU bounced back to defeat Central Missouri. The Muleriders fell to St. Cloud State, 5-4, as the tying run was thrown out at the plate to end the game.
  • Central Arkansas heads to the Southland Conference tourney in Sugar Land, Texas, having lost five of six after being swept by Southland regular-season champs Sam Houston St. The Bears take on Texas A&M Corpus-Christi at noon Wednesday. With a 34-19 overall record and some sexy non-conference wins, UCA could be on the NCAA bubble. But in truth, the Bears probably need to bring home the Southland crown to make the postseason.
  • Both Arkansas-Little Rock and Arkansas State squeaked into the Sun Belt Conference tournament starting Wednesday in Lafayette, La. ASU finished the regular season as the eighth seed, and will face top-seeded Troy at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday. UALR is the no. 7 seed, and will meet South Alabama at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Coaches, SIDs, baseball fans from around the state: got a tip or interesting note? Pass it on to Chris Murray

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