State of the Hogs: Baseball Life

Arkansas has some life after winning the SEC series against Alabama. The Hogs are among a huge number of teams with a 3-3 league record.

Arkansas lost seven of seven of eight games during one stretch in March, but there's life to this baseball team after winning the final game at Florida and two of three against Alabama.

It probably helped to get some playing time for some younger Razorbacks against Grambling State between the Florida and Alabama weekends. It should help to get three games against Mississippi Valley State on Tuesday and Wednesday before heading to Mississippi State this weekend.

Some might criticize Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn for playing teams at the bottom of the RPI like Grambling and Mississippi Valley. But he doesn't care. He knows that the rest of the midweek games are tough. The midweek nonconference switches to Nebraska, UNLV, Stephen F. Austin, Northwestern State and Missouri State the rest of the way.

"We need to get some young guys in these games and win them," Van Horn said. "We need to get some pitchers some innings."

Other teams in the SEC have played some similar midweek games, but Van Horn thinks the Arkansas schedule is plenty tough enough to impress an NCAA Selection Committee.

"We have played a tough schedule so far," he said. "And we need these midweek games to look at some players."

The Hogs (13-8) will play MVSU in a doubleheader on Tuesday, beginning at 3:05 p.m. A game was added to replace the Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne game rained out on March 3. The Hogs will play MVSU on Wednesday at 6:35 p.m. in North Little Rock.

Collin Poche and Alex Phillips will be the starters on Tuesday. Van Horn said he'll "staff the Wednesday game based on who didn't pitch Tuesday.

Van Horn didn't say when junior shortstop Brett McAfee, out the last two weekends with a sore back, would be able to return. But he said it was a good sign when he took a turn in the batting cage on Sunday.

"He didn't feel anything so that's good," Van Horn said. "He's about 80 percent. He's getting better."

Michael Bernal and Bobby Wernes have filled in for the Hogs at shortstop with good results.

"They've made the routine plays," Van Horn said. "It's good to see we can count on them."

McAfee's bat is missed, though. He hit .302 in the first 13 games.

The Hogs are 3-3 in league play, like eight others in the 14-team standings. Ole Miss, Auburn and Mississippi State lead at 4-2. LSU, which tied with Georgia over the weekend, is at 3-2-1. Then comes Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Florida, Texas A&M and Alabama all at 3-3 with the Hogs.

It's too early to draw too much into SEC games only stats, but LSU has been the surprise in its six conference games. The Tigers are hitting just .199, 13th in the league. The league average in SEC games is .251. Arkansas is at .225 in six SEC games, .259 in its 21 total games.

Brian Anderson leads the Hogs with a .329 average, Krisjohn Wilkerson is at .327 and McAfee is at .302. Andrew Benintendi is hitting just .239, but he's at a solid .395 on base percentage with 14 walks and four hit batsmen.

Jalen Beeks (3-2) leads the pitching staff with a 1.56 ERA among weekend starters. Collin Poche, working himself into the midweek rotation, has a 0.77 ERA. Relievers Jacob Stone (3-0), Michael Gunn (three saves), Josh Alberius and James Teague have a 0.00 ERA.

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