State of the Hogs: Measuring Stick

Brigham Young couldn't push Arkansas, but maybe Texas Tech, Houston and Texas can be the measuring sticks when the Hogs hit the road for a weekend tournament.

Arkansas will get its measuring stick this weekend against Texas Tech, Houston and Texas. Brigham Young's baseball team learned it didn't measure up the last two days.

That was Vance Law's take. The Brigham Young head coach said he thought he was bringing a quality team to Fayetteville to play the Razorbacks. Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn still thinks the Cougars are good. Perhaps Law's team just needs more time outside.

Arkansas won, 8-1, on Wednesday after white washing the Cougars, 5-0, on Tuesday. Law said the Hogs did the little things right both days.

"Arkansas is extremely well coached and experienced," Law said. "They execute well on offense. Like yesterday, every time they got a man to third with less than two outs, they delivered with a fly ball. They moved their runners over again today."

Law should know good baseball when he sees it. He played 12 years in the big leagues as a middle reliever. His father was a Cy Young Award pitcher with the Pirates. He thought his team could play with the Hogs when he scheduled the series.

"I thought we had a good team (coming back) and this would be a good measuring stick," Law said. "We are not as good as I thought.

"I think we are good, but I know we can pitch better than that. We started a couple of midweek guys and they had a difficult time with the No. 4 team in the country. Arkansas is a good offensive team. They can square you up. They did that a lot the last two days."

The Cougars managed only eight hits over two games against 12 Arkansas pitchers. Law got to see eight Arkansas hurlers on Wednesday. Law was impressed, particularly since he figures at least two of the best UA pitchers, weekend starters Ryne Stanek and Randall Fant, didn't even see the mound against the Cougars.

"I know we saw (DJ) Baxendale for an inning and (Barrett) Astin for an inning today and they are two of their best guys, but they left some others for the weekend," Law said. "So with that in mind, that's pretty good pitching. That's a very good staff. They all looked good to me. Obviously, Baxendale and Astin are very, very good."

Law liked everything he saw of the Razorbacks.

"Offensively, they keep things short and they execute," he said. "They play the way we want to play. That's a very good team.

"I won't tell my team this, but we are behind them (with weather). They have been outside more than us. We've been outside a total of eight days so far this year. We'll get better. I hate excuses though and that's what that sounds like."

Van Horn buys it.

"I watched them in batting practice yesterday and I like the way they swing it," Van Horn said. "We played really well the last two days. It started with what we did on the mound, but everyone played well. I think (BYU) is a good team."

The Cougars might have come to town at the wrong time. The Hogs were disappointed after not playing so well on the weekend, including a bitter loss on Sunday after blowing a 5-0 lead. Some players spoke up in a no coaches meeting on Monday that sparked the return to form of what some think is one of the top two or three pitching staff's in the country.

"It was a matter of our guys bearing down," Van Horn said. "It was better concentration. We thought we could pitch."

Baxendale was awarded the victory despite throwing just the first inning, an eight-pitch beauty. The junior captain said pitching coach Dave Jorn gave the staff its marching orders on Monday.

"We did a good job (on the mound) the last two days," Baxendale said. "We had a rough day (Sunday). But we came together. Coach Jorn worked some wrinkles out on a couple of issues. We focused more on location. That helped us be more successful."

The Hogs will find out more about themselves on the weekend. Van Horn said the three-game tournament will have the feel of an NCAA regional.

"We want to get this team on the road and see how they perform," Van Horn said. "I know the team is excited about it."

Van Horn said the anticipation of the trip to Houston could have worked against the Hogs this week, but they didn't overlook BYU, probably because of the Sunday result.

"Sometimes a loss isn't all bad," he said. "But I was concerned they could look ahead. I thought we would be pretty focused Tuesday, but today could have been a trap game (with the tournament coming up). I told the team that before the game today.

"I was worrying a lot about these two games. Yesterday was a big relief. But we played well both days."

Now it's time for the Hogs to get their measuring stick.

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