BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
Louisiana Tech head coach Lane Burroughs is sure that he will have an NCAA Tournament team again this season.
But he sure didn’t see signs of that from his preseason Conference USA favorite Bulldogs this weekend as they were swept by Arkansas, including a strange 15-6 decision on Sunday.
Arkansas scored nine runs in a third inning in which Jared Wegner and Kendall Diggs both hit two-run homers off starter Reed Smith and Louisiana Tech reliever Lane Tompkins walked five straight batters, three with that bases loaded.
That inning came after Razorback starting and winning pitcher Hunter Hollan (3-0), who pitched five innings of two-hit baseball and retired 11 batters in a row, actually hit three batters as the Bulldogs went up 3-1.
“Not many teams are going to survive a nine-spot that’s for sure,” Burroughs said. “I have been doing this for 27 years and I don’t think I have ever survived one of those.”
Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn praised his team for its 11 hits and working 12 walks, including five Wegner drew and three issued to Tavian Josenberger, during Sunday’s game.
The Razorbacks have now won 26 consecutive non-conference home weekend series dating back to the 2014 season.
“Just a good job by our team, really all weekend, just finding a way to win three games,” Van Horn said. “Today was more about taking advantage of what they didn’t do well. They walked us a dozen times, got hit by a pitch or two, got a couple big hits and created a few things that we took advantage of.
“I was just impressed by the hitters. They weren’t getting a lot of hits, but they weren’t going out of the zone, weren’t chasing too much and just kept fighting. Thee nine runs in the third were basically… They had a bit of an issue throwing the ball over the plate. We got a couple of hits in there and just kept tacking it on.”
Arkansas won 12-7 on Friday and 6-1 on Saturday behind pitcher Will McEntire’s complete-gamer three- hitter.
This against a team that was 43-21 last season and played in the Austin Regional.
“We are not a very good baseball team right now and that’s the bottom line,” Burroughs said. “We have got to find a way to get better.
“…We are in a storm right now and we’ve got to get through it. There is not much going right, not much going our way. We can sit here and talk about it all day, but we have to come out of it. We are not very good.”
Hollan was followed to the mound by Cody Adcock, who pitched two innings, and freshman Gage Wood and Christian Foutch, who made his college debut and pitched an inning as did Wood.
Burroughs, whose team is 8-7, did have a lot of praise for Arkansas (13-2), winners of eight straight games.
“They are really good, obviously they swept us,” Burroughs said. “We really weren’t in any of the games, except Friday night’s. They are good club.
“I am more disappointed in our team. I felt like we didn’t really show. They’re good, but we kind of pride ourselves on playing hard and being tough. I didn’t think any of that sho wed up this weekend.
“I thought their arms were good and I know they’ve got some bullets (injuries) down in the bullpen, but I thought their guys came in and did a good job for them.
“Obviously their line up is long and physical. If they swing the bats like that, they are going to be hard to beat and will make a run in the SEC for sure.”
Burroughs said his team was battling injuries and illness this weekend, but he was not looking for excuses.
“It is (tough), but it is not who we are and we don’t like to talk about it,” Burroughs said. It is what it is and it’s got to be the next man up.
“At the end of the day, we ran into a really good team and we are not playing good baseball right now.”
Louisiana Tech has a win over defending national champion Ole Miss and led in a second game when rain forced the score to revert back an inning and gave the Rebels the win.
“We really haven’t played good all year,” Burroughs said. “We are 8-7 and we are fortunate to won eight. That is the unfortunate and disappointing thing – I don’t even think we are even close to where we could be.
“Our main guys are not producing and when that happens at a school our size, we don’t have as much depth so it’s going to be tough. You can’t come in and play like that against a good team in a great arena or you see what happens.”
Louisiana Tech did have one bright spot in true freshman Karson Evans, who made his college debut this weekend.
Evans went 4 of 11 with two home runs, a double and six RBIs while slugging 1.000.
“We’ve got one guy showing up to the ballpark ready to play and it’s him,” Burroughs said. “He got his opportunity and he got in there and made the most of it.
“He is a tough kid – mentally tough and physically tough and a great athlete…You can put Karson Evans anywhere you want to on the baseball field and he’ll go play it and won’t say a word.
“You saw it today. He had never caught in a college game and he held his own. I am proud of him. He was the one bright spot, I guess for the entire weekend…He had a great weekend offensively.”
Borroughs decided he needed to give Evans a shot.
“It’s the first time he has played,” Burroughs said. “We don’t have the luxury of college football. We can’t play them a little bit and then they get a redshirt. If you play them, you have got to roll with them.
“He’s BP is good every day. He’s tough and we decided to let him roll this weekend and I guess he had about six or seven RBIs, two homers and a big double the other night. He is probably going to be in the four hole come Tuesday night.
“He can play first, he can catch, he’s just a ballplayer. I am extremely proud of him and how he respond this weekend.”
Arkansas has a two-game set with UNLV Tuesday night at 6 p.m. and Wednesday at 3 p.m. before opening SEC play Friday at 6:30 p.m. with Auburn.
Photo by John D. James