Arkansas set to open series against Georgia

By Nate Allen

Special to the News-Times

FAYETTEVILLE - How well they played despite losing 2-0 to SEC rival LSU last Sunday at Baum Stadium proved to Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn that his Razorbacks were recovering from Saturday night’s meltdown, blowing an 8-2 lead over LSU after seven innings to lose 10-8.

Tuesday's 12-4 trouncing at always tough Missouri State proves the LSU series has been eradicated from the Razorbacks’ psyche, Van Horn said Wednesday. He says his Razorbacks, 26-8 overall and tied with Auburn and Mississippi State at 8-4 for best in the West, look straight ahead at the SEC series starting tonight at Baum with the Georgia Bulldogs, rather than in the rearview mirror of losing their first SEC series after sweeping Mississippi State at Baum and winning two of three at SEC rivals Missouri and Alabama.

“I think it gives you confidence because we played well,” Van Horn said of Tuesday’s game. “Really good defense and swung the bat extremely well, but more than anything, our pitching did a great job against a good a really good lineup on the road. And it gets that weekend series against LSU pretty well behind us with that win.”

Coach Scott Stricklin’s Bulldogs, 15-19 overall and 4-8 in the SEC East, but a Tuesday night non-conference winner at ACC instate rival Georgia Tech, and the Razorbacks play at 6:30 tonight, 6 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday.

None are televised, but all are on the Razorbacks’ radio network and on the Internet at SECN+.

Van Horn, as did Razorbacks Carson Shaddy and Jake Arledge, asserted on Sunday that losing a series they appeared to have won was just a detour and not a dead end.

“We’re a really good team and we know it,” Shaddy said Sunday. “They just had a really good pitcher (Eric Walker throwing a complete-game, four-hit shutout) and he was on today. This is not the end of the Hogs. We’re going to be back. It’s one weekend and it’s a long season.”

Van Horn said the Hogs hit the ball better than Sunday’s stats against LSU but the Tigers' defense made that come to naught.

“They made four or five great plays in the field that probably saved the ballgame for them,” Van Horn said. “In a tight game like that, it makes a huge difference.”

Missouri State couldn’t stop Arkansas’ 18-hit attack Tuesday, just like LSU couldn’t Friday night and Saturday night’s first five innings.

However, Georgia tonight and Friday throw two starters who have fared well, lefty Andrew Gist (2-2, 3.38 ERA) tonight and right-hander Chase Adkins (4-3, 2.98) on Friday while closer Blake Cairnes is 1-0 with four saves.

Gist, Van Horn said, “is really crafty and throws a lot of strikes.”

Catcher Michael Curry (.333 BA, five home runs and 32 RBI), swings the Bulldogs’ biggest bat.

“His numbers are really good,” Van Horn said Wednesday.

“He’s definitely a guy we don’t want to get in a situation where we have to pitch to him with the game on the line. And they’ve got a couple of other guys that can swing it. They have got good talent.”

Because this week’s Thursday through Saturday SEC slate differs from the customary Friday through Sunday, Van Horn had pondered moving normal starters Trevor Knight (5-1, 1.94) and Trevor Stephan (4-2, 2.86) to Friday and Saturday, but said on Wednesday he would keep the rotation.

Josh Alberius again likely will be the SEC wrapup starter unless needed in relief.

Cannon Chadwick, the effective early-season closer who has struggled of late and was beaten as part of last Saturday’s ninth-inning meltdown, could be supplanted this weekend by right-handers Jake Reindl and Dominic Taccolini.

Reindl allowed one run in 5 2-3 relief innings against LSU Sunday, while Taccolini struck out Missouri State’s 3-4-5 hitters in his lone inning Tuesday.

“Taccolini pitched an inning yesterday that was lights out against Missouri State,” Van Horn said.

“He went right through the middle of their order.

“And they’ve got a 3-4-5 as good as any 3-4-5 as we’ve faced this year.”

Since the deep bone bruise that Van Horn acknowledged might as well be a fracture continues to indefinitely sideline third baseman Hunter Wilson after just 14 games, Van Horn said there is consideration of Wilson not returning this season to apply for a hardship restoring his 2018 junior eligibility.