BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
Arkansas failed in miserable fashion in an attempt to grab at least a share of its fourth straight SEC Western Division baseball title Saturday afternoon in Alabama.
The Crimson Tide (29-25, 12-17) put up six runs in an inning twice and five more tallies in another while crushing the Razorbacks 18-5 in Tuscaloosa.
That result for Arkansas (38-16, 18-12) combined with Texas A&M’s 12-5 win at Ole Miss handed the title to the Aggies (34-17, 19-11).
” Yeah, not much I can say on that,” an obviously frustrated Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said of his team’s effort. “It’s disappointing that we came out and couldn’t throw the ball over the plate, got behind in the count. I think we walked 11, hit three more, made a couple of routine bobbles in the field that could have probably kept another couple runs off.
“Whether it was going to matter or not, that was a disappointing part. It was really just a total bad game on our part.”
Van Horn’s team jumped ahead 2-0 in first and thought his team had the proper mindset coming into the game.
“The mindset was great,” Van Horn said. “It all started on the mound. That’s what’s changed everything.”
Alabama had lost its last five SEC series, but took this one with wins on Friday night and Saturday after Arkansas won on Thursday.
“I don’t know where this has been all year,” Crimson Tide head coach Brad Bohannon said. “But to put up a six, a six and a five against Arkansas, who I think is leading the league in pitching or at least second, it just doesn’t make sense. This conference is just really something. I am really happy for our kids.”
Both teams had 11 hits on Saturday, but Arkansas’ eight pitchers issued the 11 bases on balls, hit two and tossed four wild pitches
Arkansas, which was once 11-4 in SEC action, lost 7 of its last 8 conference games, including its final two series against visiting Vanderbilt and Alabama.
“Big concern,” Van Horn said. “It’s been the last couple of weeks and we’re behind, we’re throwing ball, we’re getting hit. Yeah, there’s a lot of concern there. Just disappointed with, really, two out of three starts this weekend.”
Van Horn is not sure a rah-rah speech is the answer.
“No rah-rah here,” Van Horn said. ” I don’t think rah-rah is going to get it done. It’s about pitching better and playing better defense. We actually swung the bats pretty good today. We had the same amount of hits, hit some balls hard that were caught. They didn’t walk us and hit us, and they didn’t make an error. That separated the game.
“…I’m disappointed like everyone else. I’m not going to go through the game because we all were here to live it together, so we all have to handle it together. We’ve got to climb out of this hole a little bit.”
Arkansas will stay in the state of Alabama to compete in the SEC Tournament, which opens Tuesday in Hoover, Ala.
The third-seeded Razorbacks, who won the SEC regular season and tournament titles last season, are guaranteed at last two games in event.
Arkansas will open action Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. against the winner of Tuesday’s 9:30 a.m. game between 11h-seeded Alabama and sxith-seeded Georgia.
Tennessee is the top seed and Texas A&M second in an event Arkansas won in addition the regular season title last season.
Van Horn hopes this loss will be shock to Arkansas’ system.
“Well, I hope so,” Van Horn said. “… I guess, see how it all turns out. But if the pitching doesn’t get better it’s not going to really make a difference. We’ve got to get better.”
The game started off well enough for Arkansas as Braydon Webb delivered a one-out single, moved up on a walk to Robert Moore and raced home on Chris Lanzilli’s double, his sixth hit of the series.
Jalen Battles’ single brought home Moore to make it 2-0.
But the Alabama onslaught, helped by the Arkansas gifts, started with six runs in the second inning against a trio of Arkansas hurlers.
Arkansas starter Jackson Wiggins retired the side in order in the opening inning, but then things fell apart for him in the next frame.
He would end up going just 1 1/3 innings whole allowing five runs on two hits, walking two, throwing two wild pitches and fanning a pair.
The Alabama rout was so complete that ninth-hole hitter Bryce Elbin launched a grand slam in fifth for just his second homer of the season.
Webb was 3-of-3 for Arkansas with a homer while Cayden Wallace also had a blast and scored two runs.
Van Horn was asked if the late-season slide was a mental or physical slump.
“I don’t know,” Van Horn said. “Probably a little bit of everything.”