On a beautiful day at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville, the Diamond Hogs seemed to be behind the eight ball so to speak, down one game in the series with Ole Miss. Arkansas Head Coach Dave Van Horn knew what was at stake and knew he had to help this young Arkansas Razorback team win two seven inning games. Back to back. With runs coming at a premium in game one, the Hogs needed starting pitcher Randall Fant to pitch a gem. And that’s exactly what he did.
After getting into trouble early, Fant escaped the first inning on a double play and allowed just one hit. With the Hogs struggling to push runs across in the past two games, Arkansas needed someone to step up and manufacture some runs. While that didn’t technically take place, the Hogs did manage to score Tim Carver in the first inning on a base hit. While it seemed like that would be enough, Collin Kuhn added another run via long ball, hitting his sixth home run of the season and second of this series.
Randall Fant continued to dominate Ole Miss, retiring sixteen straight batters. In the top of the seventh inning Fant allowed back to back singles and that would be all for Fant. Freshmen would make a big impact on the game as Trent Daniel made an appearance to face one batter and Barrett Astin would come in for the save.
After the mandatory 45 minute break between SEC games, Arkansas and Ole Miss faced off again. Ryne Stanek would get the start for Arkansas but his start would be short
It wasnt until the bottom of the sixth that Arkansas would respond, with its back against the wall. With what appeared to be an inning ending double play after a Tim Carver fly out to center field and Kyle Atkins could not beat the ball back to second base, the play was wiped away by umpires. The Ole Miss pitcher had balked. The Diamond Hogs went on to score three runs on a suicide squeeze, a base hit to right and a sacrifice fly to left.
With a 5-3 lead the Hogs would start sweating once more in the top of inning number seven. Barrett Astin walked the first batter and got the second to pop out. After walking the next batter, Barrett Astin’s day was done. With a surprising call by Van Horn, Thursday night’s starter, D.J. Baxendale emerged from the bull pen. After what can only be described as poor base running by Ole Miss and luck by the Arkansas battery, the Hogs completed the comeback.
With Arkansas taking the series from Ole Miss, the Hogs not only clinched the No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament, but won the SEC West out right. A feat that seemed impossible at the beginning of the day, as the Hogs needed a few things to fall into place.
Arkansas needed LSU to beat Mississippi State, and LSU obliged 6-3. The Hogs also needed South Carolina to win in their contest against Alabama, and the Gamecocks came through. All of this happened during the second game of the double-header. Arkansas, while still playing, had actually won at least a share of the SEC West title, but if the Hogs lost would not be making the trip to Hoover, Alabama. And to top off the performance of the Hogs, D.J. Baxendale came into the game knowing exactly what was at stake. Most players interviewed after the game did not. Talk about pressure.
To sum the day up, the Arkansas Razorbacks showed mettle today. For Ole Miss, the season is likely over. But the Hogs live on to fight another day. And with key losses in the region today, the chances of Arkansas hosting a NCAA Regional is looking better and better.
Below is the SEC Tournament Bracket:
Game 1 No. 2 Arkansas vs. No. 7 Alabama 9:30 a.m. CT
Game 2 No. 3 Florida vs No. 6 Mississippi State TBD
Game 3 No. 1 South Carolina vs No. 8 Auburn TBD
Game 4 Vanderbilt vs No. 5 Georgia TBD
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