Q. Our first question is from Lonnie Mac who asks: I wonder how many disbelieving fans with their “We stink” and “The season is over” comments on social media have thumbed a ride back onto the OmaHogs bus?
A. I understand your point but most of those people did not jump off the bus, they were just complaining because they thought the bus was running out of gas.
As I said last week, super loyal fans are nice. The players and the parents like ’em but fans who tend to be critical aren’t the enemy. They when they get frustrated they have to express that frustration. To me it’s like somebody who has a headache and they complain about it. The headache goes away and they happy again. There’s also the worriers. I had a guy at the games last weekend explain it this way.
He said, In 2018 we were a dropped foul ball away from a national championship. In 2019 we made it to Omaha but went two and out. In 2020 there was no Omaha because of COVID. In 2021 we won a regional but lost in the super regional. Didn’t make it to Omaha. This year it looks like we’re not even going to make it to a super regional. So it you put that on a graph it’s a downward trend since that dropped ball.
So he was not happy. I saw him later and he was all smiles. “The graph is not going down. Not this year,” he said.
To me this is a time for all Hogs fans to be happy. There are only 16 teams left playing and
Arkansas is one of them.
Q. Alex4Hogs88 I will admit that I was not very hopeful about the Diamond Hogs after seeing inconsistency that really concerned me throughout the season. I’m also proud of the fresh fight in this team this weekend! #WPS baby! Now let’s beat the Tar Heels!!!
A. This is a good example of a skeptical fan who just got his batteries recharged. I think that’s great.
Q. TexOma Hawg wants to know: How cool was it to watch Mr. Twinkle Toes go from tip toeing through the tulips between 2nd and 3rd to smashing his batting helmet in the dugout after the beatdown Hagan Smith put on him?
A. Some background on this for those who were locked away in a cave last weekend. The Mr. Twinkle Toes referenced is Roc Ruggio, a very good Oklahoma State freshmen hitter who after hitting a big home run in the Saturday night game with Arkansas began circling the bases. As he approached third he went into what Alyssa tells me is called a Peacock strut. It looked extremely odd. Later in the game when Arkansas took the lead on a grand slam, Jalen Battles went around the bases the right way.
In the deciding game on Monday this player came to bat when the bases loaded in the bottom of the 8th with Arkansas up by two runs. Most people there figured he was going to hit a grand slam for a two run OSU lead. Instead Freshmen left hander Hagen Smith struck him out to end the inning and the threat. He went to the dugout where one of the ESPN cameras caught him slamming his helmet down. Needless to say Hogs fans have been having fun barbequing the kid since that game.
Q. DeWitt Razorback says: I can’t remember ever watching a regional that felt like this one. With all of the scoring and momentum changes it felt more like watching a UFC fight than a baseball tournament. Where does this rank among your favorite regional victories?
A. For the coaches and the players it’s right up there. They’ve been through so much with the up and down season. Things were going great with the first two wins, especially with the way they just buried Oklahoma State on Saturday night. But on Sunday when the Cowboys bounced back from a12-0 deficit and beat Missouri State 29-15 and in the night game the way Arkansas came from behind and had the lead in the 8th only to watch the Cowboys tie it up in the 9th and win it in the 10th, it looked like all the momentum was gone. The bounce back was over.
Then to see Arkansas come out on Monday and do all the things fans were complaining about them not doing in the last month of the season, that was fun to watch. They got key hits. Their pitching was good and it was the home team that was leaving the bases loaded. Plus OSU’s pitching broke down at critical points in the game. Arkansas flipped the script and it was really cool to watch them celebrate when it was over.
For me though, it was a difficult regional. The games were way too long. I’m not a fan of double digit scoring in baseball. Saturday there were 47 runs scored in the two games. Sunday it was 68 runs. Are you kidding me?
Throw in constant five minute reviews. Conferences at the mound. Conferences with hitters near the OSU dugout. it was frustrating. The two Sunday games lasted a total of over 9 hours.
Also the fans were getting edgy. I saw an Arkansas fan, a woman, get into it with an OSU fan, a guy, over whether she was standing in the right place on a standing room only ticket. The guy apparently thought he was an usher. She pointed out to him that he wasn’t.
Monday was much, much better. A normal baseball game. Ten total runs scored.
But to answer your question, the best regional for me had to be the second one ever played in Fayetteville in 2004. Arkansas, as the one seed, lost to the two seed Wichita State on day two and had to come back and win three straight games including two against Wichita State.
The first of those two games featured the famous Brady Toops grand slam as Arkansas went from down 9-7 to winning 11-9. There had been several pitches where Arkansas was a strike away from being eliminated. It was sort of the reverse of what Arkansas did as the two seed against one seed Oklahoma State this past weekend in Stillwater.
Q. Err Uhh Wood asks: Do you know anything about a Razorback fan at the regional who kept making crazy predictions that turned out to be true? Van Horn said something about it after the game.
A. Yes. I don’t know the name of the fan but he had a standing room only ticket right behind where I was in press seating. In the Saturday OSU game after they got up 10-5 on Arkansas in the 6th he told me that Arkansas was going to come back and win. They did, scoring 15 runs over the next three innings.
In the Monday game when Hagan Smith came in to pitch in the bottom of the 8th with Arkansas up by just two runs I said to Alyssa that Smith wasn’t a closer. He’d been struggling to throw strikes for several weeks and I figured the game was about to be over.
That fan heard me and he said that it was a great move By DVH because Smith was actually a natural closer who had been miscast as a starter this season. Sure enough Smith blanked OSU over those two innings. In the post game presser I mentioned this to Van Horn and he said the guy was right. Smith had done a great job closing out scrimmages in Fall Ball but they moved him into a starting role when Payton Paulette had to have elbow surgery before the season started.
Also in the top of the 9th in that game, I mentioned to Alyssa that Arkansas needed some more runs to take the pressure off of Smith. The fan said out loud, “They’re gonna score three.” Actually they scored two but he was close.
Q. RazorRunner says: Around the beginning of the current baseball season, you gave your prediction that the Hogs would not win the SEC, but would go to the CWS and win it all. So far so good. Is that still your prediction?
A. I think I explained that day that I’m terrible with predictions but since the person asking he question wanted me to predict the season I said they would do the opposite of the 2021 season. No SEC or SEC Tournament title but they would get to the College World Series and win it. That prediction is still possible but I’d have to say that Arkansas is a real longshot to win it all.
Q. H. McCamish wants to know: What happened with Connor Noland? He looked like a different guy against Grand Canyon and they are a very good hitting team.
A. There were several factors. First he had six days off instead of four and he worked just three innings the week before. Then DVH gave the whole team Saturday and Sunday off after Hoover. Told them to get away from baseball. Do something totally unrelated to baseball. Connor played golf. Said it really helped him clear his mind. But the biggest factor was the five quick runs Arkansas scored to take the pressure off him. In the previous month or so they had not done that.
Q. Mousetown says: Some seemed to think it was funny that a Hog fan made up story on the Internet about Tennessee’s catcher testing positive for steroids and was out of the tournament, Also that the entire Tennessee team was going to get tested by the NCAA. I didn’t think it was funny at all. What about you?
A. l agree. Nothing funny about it. I don’t think you should be able to hide behind the excuse, everybody knows I’m a troll and nobody should take my posts seriously. I’m not against joke tweets but what he was joking about in this case could be and was taken seriously by some and it got all over the place. It ended up making Arkansas fans look like a bunch of goobers who will do anything to make Tennessee look bad. This Tennessee catcher is a real person. He has a life. It is not acceptable that for a few hours Friday night it was spread around on social media that he was a steroid abuser. It’s not acceptable that to some it appeared that Tennessee’s success as a team might have been due to steroid use. I don’t know if there’s any way to take legal action for this but if it happened to my son I’d look into it and not against the ESPN announcer who thought the story was real but to the clown who posted it in the first place.
Q. Lanny says: I thought Tennessee had cleaned up its act but here we go again. One of their players hit a big double in the regional final against Georgia Tech and it sure looked he flipped off the outfielder who couldn’t make the catch.
A. The player’s name is Jordan Beck. if you watch video of Beck as he headed to second base it’s fairly obviously that he wasn’t signaling, We’re number one. After the game he was asked about it and told reporters that he blacked out mentally after he got the hit. He couldn’t remember what he did.
You could see Vitello talking to him in the dugout later. I assume he was saying, don’t do that again. But to me that’s where the umps have to step in. We have these endless video reviews. Do a video review of that and then kick the kid out of the game. Also Tennessee’s AD needs to step in. I know that the fans love this but if it doesn’t stop I suspect that the SEC office is going to step in.
Q. Arkie Redneck says: Maybe Michael Turner should hire Ruscin as his press agent. (kidding) Clearly Turner was on a mission in Stillwater.
A. I get your point and don’t think that I wasn’t thinking the same thing. Sometimes good can come out of bad. There’s no way of knowing for sure if that’s what motivated Turner but I suspect that it was more about the way the fans rushed to his defense than anything that was said about him on the radio. All we know for sure is that he had a great tournament. Probably his best four-game stretch of the season. Give him credit for this: He didn’t let the controversy of those radio remarks distract him. He shook all of that off and played great baseball.
Q. Suzie Blackwell says: I was heartbroken when the softball team lost to Texas but seeing what they are doing in Oklahoma City makes me feel better. Looks like Arkansas ran into a Texas team that had great momentum.
A. That’s exactly what happened. If any other team but Texas had been in the Fayetteville Super Regional Arkansas would have probably advanced to Oklahoma City. As we’ve seen so far in the Women’s World Series, Texas is playing lights out and is now in the championship series against heavily favored Oklahoma.
Q. Wildhoggerman asks: What do you think about Pittman’s new contract? I still think he’s underpaid if Widdle Wayne Kiffin (as you call him) makes two million more.
A. Well, maybe Kiffin is overpaid.
Actually it’s exactly the kind of contract Hunter Yurachek mentioned when he was hired. Less money up front but heavy on incentive clauses. Pittman may be making less than Kiffin but it he can get close to that range by meeting certain performance goals. To me that’s the smart way to do it.