Those struggles returned Friday as Arkansas managed only six hits in a 3-2 loss to Charlotte in the first game of the NCAA Tempe Regional at Packard Stadium. The Razorbacks now await to play the loser of tonight's game between host school Arizona State and New Mexico in an elimination game Saturday at 4 p.m., Central.
Charlotte pitcher Andrew Smith, who won the Atlantic-10 pitcher of the year honors, hogtied the Razorbacks all day, lasting 7 1/3 innings on the mound giving up only one run on five hits.
"I thought we had a bad practice Thursday and we talked about that on the bus. I thought we were rushing through things. I told the guys, 'Let's just go and do things normally.'"
Smith and reliever Corey Roberts, stalwarts of a pitching staff with the third-lowest team earned run average in college baseball, combined to strike out seven Arkansas batters.
"I thought we got outplayed," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "We made a couple of errors and they turned three double plays.
"I felt like we tried to umpire too much instead of just swing. I don't know how many (strikeouts looking) we had, but it was disappointing. You've got to give credit to Charlotte."
Arkansas (38-21) failed to get any production from the top of its batting order as the first four hitters in the Razorbacks' lineup combined to go 0-for-13 at the plate.
Charlotte (43-14) jumped on Razorbacks starting pitcher Randall Fant early. The left-hander, who lasted just 1/3-inning last weekend in the SEC Tournament, pitched two innings this time around, allowing three runs on four hits.
Fant was a late addition to Arkansas' lineup after Van Horn decided to save the team's ace, DJ Baxendale, for the second game of the regional.
"We lost, so in hindsight I guess I wish we hadn't started him," Van Horn said. "I wish we would have scored more runs, is what I really wish. We only scored two runs - that was the problem."
The 49ers took a 2-0 lead in the second inning on designated hitter Corbin Shive's first home run of the season. Charlotte entered the contest with just 18 home runs as a team.
"He got ahead of me 0-2, so after that I was looking to fight some pitches off," Shive said. "He left a ball up and in on me and it kind of surprised me. I put a good swing on it. It was a big hit and felt good."
Charlotte added another run later in the second inning on a Justin Roland fielder's choice RBI, but Arkansas' bullpen settled in from there. Freshmen Brandon Moore and Barrett Astin combined to toss seven innings of scoreless relief to keep Arkansas in the game.
The Razorbacks got on the scoreboard in the third inning on a Collin Kuhn sacrifice fly to score Tim Carver, who had led off the inning with a double. Arkansas put its leadoff man on base four times, but scored him only once on the afternoon.
Errors, both in the field and on the base pads, were costly for the Razorbacks. Perhaps the biggest blunder came in the fifth inning when Matt Vinson overran second base on a Jarrod McKinney single and was thrown out for the first out of the inning.
Carver hit into an inning-ending double play on the next pitch to kill Arkansas' most promising threat of the game.
"We had a runner (Vinson) who could run and he was basically tip-toeing," Van Horn said. "I didn't know what to do with him because he wasn't running hard. I'm trying to bring him and then I tried to stop him, and instead of going back to the base, he just stood there."
Charlotte nearly extended its lead in the top of the eighth inning, but Shane Basen was thrown out at the plate by Astin on a bunt attempt up the middle. The Razorbacks couldn't build off the momentum, however, as Arkansas stranded a runner at second base in the bottom half of the frame.
Kyle Robinson's solo home run with two outs pulled the Razorbacks within 3-2, but Matt Reynolds struck out looking to end the game.
"We're used to playing close games," said Hibbs, whose team improved to 11-1 in one-run games this season. "I was proud of our guys for not freaking out and just keep playing."