Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn knows what lies ahead in the SEC, another tough weekend.
"That's the way it is every weekend," he said. "There are 10 tough weekends. This one is no different."
The only thing that's different is that the Hogs (19-7, 4-2) are coming off a good weekend, a rare sweep of South Carolina in Columbia. The Gamecocks have been in the College World Series title game the last three years, winning twice. They had not been swept at home in an SEC series since 1999.
Mississippi State (22-6, 2-4) comes to town with one of its most experienced teams. Van Horn knows the Bulldogs will be as tough to beat as anyone.
"They are really good," he said. "They have a 2.5 team ERA and bat over .300. All of their losses have been close -- one run or extra innings. They lost two one-run games in a doubleheader at Kentucky. They lost two tight games to LSU, then hammered LSU in the third game.
"(Mississippi State) had high expectations coming into the season with a lot of returning guys."
The Bulldogs are led by Hunter Renfroe, batting .427 with 35 hits, 36 RBI and nine homers. Adam Frazier hits .396.
"Renfroe is one of the best athletes and position players in our league," Van Horn said. "He's got 209 extra base hits. If we voted today, he'd be our league's MVP. Frazier and (C.T.) Bradford can handle the bat.
"It's going to be a tough series. They have good pitching, a nice mix of right and left pitching. It's another good SEC series.
"What you have to do is try not to be too fired up, just stay even keeled. There are 10 of these (SEC weekends). They are all important and all tough."
Van Horn said the Hogs will go with what was successful at South Carolina. That means Barrett Astin will pitch on Friday night, followed by Ryne Stanek and Randall Fant. Was there any thought of moving Stanek back to Friday night after he shut down Carolina in a complete game last Saturday?
"I think what you do is go with what's winning," Van Horn said. "We aren't going to change what worked last weekend."
That means keeping Brian Anderson at short and Willie Schwanke at first. Van Horn did admit that there are other options at short (Brett McAfee) and first (Eric Fisher). Anderson committed three errors and Schwanke is still struggling at the plate.
"It's tough for McAfee," Van Horn said. "He thought he had won the job. We could still put him back in there at short and move Anderson to third. But I'll tell you one thing, we aren't taking Jacob Mahan (.338) out of the lineup. He might move to first. He could."
Van Horn admitted the play at first has been "frustrating." Fisher is hitting .235 and Schwanke just .222.
"That's not good," Van Horn said. "First base is a position that needs to produce a little more. We won with Schwanke there last weekend but I don't like the fact that he hasn't been aggressive at the plate. He's walked more than he's struck out, but you can't take third strikes with runners in scoring position.
"Fisher has dropped some balls at first, but his offense has been a little better. He hit some line drives hard, but right at someone.
"I will say that position is wide open. Maybe if McAfee gets back in there at short, Mahan can play first. We could also put McAfee at third and Mahan in the outfield.
"Right now, we are winning so we'll keep Anderson at short. That's kinda how it works. You don't change much when you are winning."
First pitch Friday night is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. Game time for Saturday is 2:05 p.m. The finale will be at 1:05 p.m. Sunday. The first two games in the series will be televised by Cox Sports Television.
Van Horn said Dominic Ficociello would continue to bat only righthanded for the weekend, but is hopeful that he could resume switch hitting in a week or two. But the coach said it looked doubtful for lefty reliever Cade Lynch's comeback bid.
Lynch pitched three times this year, but not since March 2. He's had four surgeries to correct migraine headaches, but they have returned again.
"I think he's kind of to the point where he doesn't know if he is going to get to pitch," Van Horn said. "It's not 100 percent, but he isn't allowed to do anything right now.
"I think just the moving around and bouncing around, and the pitching and wear and tear made the situation with the headaches (worse) and he's been informed by the doctors to shut it down for a while, and it may be for good, and that's kind of what it's looking like.
"I feel bad for him, but he is still with us and he will be throughout the year as far as on the roster. But as far as playing time, I don't know if he will get to pitch again."
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