Arkansas’ inconsistency at the plate finally caught up with Dave Van Horn’s team Sunday night and now they have a win-or-end game Monday night.
“We haven’t swing the bats well this whole weekend,” he said after the 5-3 loss to Nebraska that sets up a regional final Monday at 6 p.m.
The winner goes to a Super Regional. The loser goes home.
“We just have to be better,” Van Horn said.
After falling behind by a run in the first, the Razorbacks used two singles, an error and a wild pitch to score three times in the top of the third.
The Hogs blew that two-run lead when the offense struggled to produce against Huskers reliever Spencer Schwellenbach, who started the game at shortstop then came on in the fifth to pitch.
Arkansas couldn’t get a run after that.
All five of Nebraska’s runs came against Arkansas starter Lael Lockhart, who allowed four earned while striking out five in 4.1 innings. A throwing error in the bottom of the third led to the first of four unanswered runs, helping the Cornhuskers chip away at the Razorbacks’ lead.
Ryan Costeiu and Connor Noland followed Lockhart out of the bullpen, combining for five strikeouts in 2.2 innings of relief work. Noland faced the minimum in two innings, retiring the Nebraska side in order in the bottom of the seventh.
“They just out-played us,” Van Horn said. “It was just sloppy at times.”
Nebraska didn’t use a lot of pitching in down NJIT 18-4 earlier on Sunday and just two pitchers against the Hogs.
Van Horn didn’t bring Kevin Kopps in, so he may actually be ready for some work Monday.
Connor Noland came on in relief and got a previous bad outing out of his system, working the final two innings, giving up just a single hit and walking nobody.
After the game, he said the Hogs’ pitching staff was ready to do it with guts Monday if necessary.
“Every pitcher on that staff has something left in the tank,” he said. “We all want to be out there and we’ll do anything to win the game.”
Hog fans have been making reservations in Omaha, but they now will have to sweat out an elimination game against a Nebraska team that was Big 10 champions that is in a position to pull off the biggest upset in the regionals.
If nothing else, though, this team has shown the ability to shake off a bad game to win a series matchup.
That’s how you go undefeated in series throughout an SEC season.
Now they just have to do it on a bigger stage.
With bigger stakes.
Information from Arkansas Communications is included in this story.