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Diamond Hogs Improve NCAA Regional Stock With Mizzou Sweep

A three game sweep of Missouri has probably taken the Hog baseball team off the NCAA Regional bubble.
The Razorback baseball team appears to have moved itself off the NCAA Regional bubble with a three-game sweep of Missouri, the team's first of the season. The Hogs unofficial RPI has dropped from 50 to 42 while its seeding in the SEC Baseball Tournament moved up to 7th after sitting 9th entering the series.

Head coach Dave Van Horn had approached the Missouri series stressing the need to take two of three with a sweep being an added bonus. However, for the first few innings of Thursday night's opener that goal appeared to be somewhat in jeopardy. Arkansas trailed 1-0 in the top of the 4th when junior second baseman Brian Anderson took advantage of a stiff wind blowing out to right field, sending a solo home run over the outfield wall. In the 6th DH Clarke Egan matched Anderson's feat. The Hogs put the Tigers away on Anderson's second round tripper of the night, a grand slam to left center in the 9th.

"We felt like we should have scored a couple of runs the first inning or two and we didn't and then they took the lead," Van Horn said afterward. "Brian stayed back on a pitch and got it up in the air and it went out of the park to right."

Hard luck Hogs starting pitcher Trey Killian entered the game with a 2-8 record in spite of a sub 3 ERA. Five of his losses had been by a single run. Killian exited the game after six innings with the score tied at 2-2 but as the pitcher of record he got the win when the Hogs added two runs in the top of the 7th. Killian struck out nine while surrendering a pair of earned runs on just two hits as Arkansas went on to take game one 9-4.

"Pounding the strike zone, that's what I always try to do," Killian told the Razorback Nation. "(I) Pitched to contact. Threw a lot of fast balls. I think all the strikeouts were on fastballs."

There was little drama in game two. Arkansas starter Chris Oliver along with relievers Zach Johnson and Michael Gunn combined for a three-hit shutout of the Tigers. Arkansas took a 1-0 lead in the 5th and added three more runs in the 6th to win its first conference road series of the season. Afterward Oliver said the win was nice but he told reporters, "We're not done yet. We have one more tomorrow. We need to sweep 'em tomorrow. Improve that record going into the SEC Tournament."

The sweep would not come easy. With weekend starter Jalen Beeks still sidelined it was pitching by committee on Saturday. The Tigers jumped all over reliever Colin Poche in a four run 4th. Arkansas was down 5-1 in the 9th but tied it up and went on to win the game 7-5 in extra innings. The big hit was shortstop Michael Bernal's two-out single driving in Tyler Spoon with the go ahead run in the 11th.

"It was a game that the guys really wanted to win and good things happen if you keep battling," Van Horn noted.

Bernal said the comeback was proof of how far the team has come from a time earlier in the season when it struggled to produce a come from behind win. 

"If you've noticed how hard we've gone out there and played it's a big difference when everybody's on the same page working hard for the same thing," Bernal stressed.

Next up for the Hogs is a Tuesday afternoon single elimination rematch with Texas A&M in the play-in round of the SEC Tournament. Arkansas took the first two games of its regular season series with the Aggies but dropped a heartbreaker on Sunday in extra innings.

"We're looking forward to it," Bernal volunteered. "We still have a bad taste in our mouths from the way we let that last one get away from us."



 

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