Limping may be a strong term, but Arkansas definitely isn’t rolling into Friday’s NCAA Regional game with Central Connecticut State.
The Hogs have lost four of their past five games, including setbacks to Georgia and Ole Miss, respectively, in the SEC Tournament at Hoover, Ala., last week.
The Razorbacks haven’t played well since taking two of three games from LSU at Baum-Walker Stadium in mid-May. Run production, or lack thereof, has been the bugaboo.
In four losses, Arkansas hasn’t scored more than two runs. The Hogs did beat Ole Miss 5-3 in the SEC Tournament opener, but then became anemic combining for just three runs in the back-to-back eliminating losses to the Bulldogs and Rebels.
Arkansas finished the regular season hitting .306 as a team. In the past four games, Arkansas is hitting a meager. 157. At Hoover, they were 3 for 24 with runners in scoring position and 7 for 43 with runners on base. The Hogs also hit 78 homers during the regular season but only one in the SEC Tournament.
“Yes, there is a concern because if we don’t hit and score, we are not going to win,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn told the media following the Hogs 3-2 loss to Ole Miss. We are going to get home, we are going back to work, and we’ll start driving in runs.”
Van Horn makes it sound simple, but he is right. Arkansas has hit the ball all season long, especially at home where they are 28-6. Partly because of that success, the Hogs have home-field advantage throughout the regionals and super regionals.
Arkansas hasn’t played a home game since May 12. They finished the regular season at Texas A&M and then embarked on the SEC Tournament, and that can take its toll.
The cure that ails the Hogs may be Central Connecticut State (30-21). The Blue Devils had to beat Bryant twice in two days to win the Northeast Conference Tournament. CCSU (183 RPI) owns a 4.32 team ERA and hits at a .260 clip as a team.
The Blue Devils are 0-10 all-time in NCAA Tournament games.
This is a game Arkansas should dominate and needs to t get its swagger back. A good performance in front of a packed home crowd should get the Hogs back into the form they showed before the last week of the season.
On the other hand, Arkansas won’t be looking past CCSU. Arkansas fell to Bryant in the first round of the Manhattan (Kan.) Regional in 2014. The Hogs also lost to mid-major University of Arkansas at Little Rock 17-7 at home this season.
“We’ve done that plenty of times this year, and we’ve paid for it,” sophomore shortstop Casey Martin told the media Monday. “It’s baseball. Sometimes the ball hops a little funny, as I’ve been told growing up.
“It doesn’t matter how good you are or how bad you are. You can go in and beat any team.”
Martin is right, but the Blue Devils, and the rest of the field for that matter, will have a tough time beating the Hogs if they are hitting. Look for them to enjoy the comforts of home and light up the scoreboard.