BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
HOOVER, Ala. – At a time the Arkansas baseball program hoped to be peaking, it is doing exactly the opposite.
Alabama took advantage of some early Razorback defensive miscues to down Arkansas 4-3 Wednesday afternoon the SEC Baseball Tournament at the Hoover Met.
It was the fourth loss in six games for the skidding Razorbacks (38-17), including three in row to Alabama (32-25) in the last week.
Arkansas right fielder Chris Lanzilli, who threw out a runner at the plate in the fifth and then hit a two-run homer to cut it to 4-3 in the sixth, said his team was understandably upset with its play lately.
“Obviously disappointed with the three losses,” Lanzilli said. “We know we can do better. We just have a lot more talent than how we’re playing.
“Conversations that are going on, we’re just trying to build each other up and obviously recover.”
Alabama scored its four runs on just four hits and two errors while Arkansas had three runs on five hits, including homers by Lanzilli and Jalen Battles.
“There’s only so much you can do, but we have so much talent, and we can get there for sure,” Lanzilli said. “We have confidence.”
Lanzilli said that Arkansas’ players need to just play baseball and not think about it so much going into its next game in the double-elimination event.
“I mean, just go out there, play hard, and make a few minor adjustments here and there and just honestly play baseball,” Lanzilli said. “I mean, we have guys that are unbelievable at baseball, and we need to get out of our own heads and play with confidence.”
Razorback pitching coach Matt Hobbs, who filled in for ill head coach Dave Van Horn, stated the obvious after Wednesday’s game.
“Yeah, I think it’s just one of those things that you’re going to go through ups and downs either on
the mound, at the plate, or defensively throughout the season,” Hobbs said. “And it’s unfortunate that it’s happening right now. I don’t think that’s something that will continue with our team. I do think the defense is just too good for that to happen.”
Strong defense has been a staple of Arkansas’ program, which makes it even more troubling per Hobbs.
“We’ve made mistakes in big spots, and I think that’s one of those things that it shows up because you expect it to be so good because it has been so good,” Hobbs said. “And we have a heck of a lot of confidence in our defense, and I do believe that it’s like anything, we’re in a little bit of a slump right
now, but we will get out of that.”
Even Alabama head coach Brad Bohannon admits his team has been the beneficiary of Arkansas’ gifts.
“I still think — Arkansas is a really good team,” Bohannon said. “They’re a legitimate top 10 team. They just have too much pitching, especially at the back end of the game to not be really dangerous the next three weeks. Again like the SEC, you just don’t get this league until you’re in it how good everybody is, and your margin for error is really slim.
“I’m not even super familiar with their team except that last weekend and today they helped us a little bit, and we played really clean.”
Arkansas is next slated to play the loser of Thursday morning’s Texas A&M-Florida game, which is scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m.
Tennessee will play Vanderbilt in Thursday’s second game and LSU is slated to make its tournament debut in game three against Kentucky, who knocked off Auburn 3-1 in Wednesday’s other game.
Arkansas is scheduled to play the Texas A&M-Florida loser in Thursday night’s final game.
Bohannon still is not ready to count Arkansas out.
You’re looking at seven days as you’re evaluating Arkansas,” Bohannon said. “I think if you look over a 12 or 14, 15-week period, you see a legitimate team. There aren’t too many teams that aren’t really successful in June that have the bullpen pieces that they do.”
Arkansas sent out a press release right before the game saying Van Horn was ill, would not be with the team, but was resting comfortably.
“Yeah, Coach Hobbs told us right before the game,” Lanzilli said. “He said, ‘don’t let it affect you, Coach Van Horn doesn’t want you guys thinking about it at all. He’s doing well.’ Obviously we’d love to have him here and he affects the game hugely, that’s why he’s got such a good reputation. I
don’t know, maybe that was a big part of it.”
Hobbs was not who would be the starting pitcher in the next game, but Connor Noland, Jackson Wiggins and Hagen Smith are likely options.
You’ve got Wiggins, you’ve got Noland, you’ve got Smith, you’ve got those three guys,” Hobbs said. “It’ll be probably one of those guys I imagine. I want to try to talk to Coach Van Horn tonight and then confer with the rest of the staff and just kind of see what everybody is thinking before making any kind of final decision on that