Hogs Need Hot Finish

Arkansas can position itself for a post-season run with a hot finish to SEC play. The Hogs need to do what Vanderbilt did after limping out of the Ozarks with a series loss.

Arkansas needs a Vanderbilt-type hot streak to finish the SEC campaign. The Commodores have not lost since the Hogs won two of three from them in Fayetteville midway through April.

Head coach Dave Van Horn said his Razorbacks just need to finish strong.

"I tell our guys it's just a matter of not quitting," Van Horn said. "We can still get to where we want to go. We are excited about playing at the end of the year. I tell them, 'Just don't quit and good things can happen.' My wife says, 'Don't quit.'

"The job of the coach is to stay up and keep them playing. She keeps me going. I told her I wasn't going to quit. If the coaches are down, the players are going to be down.

"We've got six games. I've seen it happen in my time, you get hot at the end and who knows. Florida got hot. Vanderbilt is hot. It can turn either way at the end and I've been at both ends of it."

The key might be the health of the Arkansas catchers. Last weekend at Ole Miss, Jake Wise suffered concussion-like symptoms after a first-inning collision at the plate on Saturday and did not play on Sunday. Blake Baxendale sustained a hamstring injury on Sunday and pitcher Jackson Lowery had to catch the ninth inning in a 11-1 victory over the Rebels.

Van Horn told the Swatter's Club on Monday that he's hopeful both catchers will play against Texas A&M. The Hogs have no midweek games the rest of the regular season, as they are in final exams this week.

Wise will have to be free of concussion symptoms before he will be cleared. Baxendale has a strain to the top of his hamstring and is probable.

"We hope to have Wise back," Van Horn said of the A&M series. "There is a protocol in place where they clear him after he's been symptom free. He was a lot better yesterday.

"On Blake, I asked him how he was when we stopped twice to stretch coming home on the bus last night. And he thought he was okay. He'll get treatment. I think he'll be alright, but we don't know yet.

"He gutted it out for us yesterday. He really did. He was feeling better last night."

Van Horn said Jalen Beeks may skip a start this weekend.

"We thought he was wearing down a week ago," Van Horn said. "We talked to him about skipping a bullpen. But he was definitely bothered by (a sore) arm Saturday and we might not start him (against Texas A&M)."

Van Horn said Trey Killian would get the Friday night start again with Chris Oliver moving up to Saturday. The Sunday start is to be announced.

"We'll leave it TBA," Van Horn said. "We'll evaluate who we have to use out of the bullpen the first two nights."

The Friday night game -- with a 6:35 p.m. start -- will be followed by a fireworks show. Senior day activities on Sunday begin at 12:45 p.m., with first pitch at 12:45 p.m.

Vandy limped out of the Ozarks with an 8-10 SEC mark after losing two of three to the Hogs. They beat Memphis to start a seven-game winning streak, featuring sweeps of Georgia and Missouri and now sit in second place in the SEC East, second place overall, with a 14-10 SEC record.

The Hogs had wiggled to .500 at 9-9 with the Vandy series win. But they've lost two of three in each of the last two weekends -- against Auburn and SEC West leader Ole Miss -- to slip to 11-13 in the SEC.

The Hogs don't catch a break as they play host to one of the SEC's hottest teams this weekend in Texas A&M. The Aggies took two of three over both Mississippi State and LSU the last two weekends to climb to 12-12 in the SEC. The Aggies have a No. 32 RPI ranking. The Hogs have risen over 50 points in the last month to sit at No. 53.

The Hogs do get an easier finish in the last SEC series. They travel to Columbia, Mo., to play last-place Missouri. The Tigers are 6-18 in SEC games, having been swept the last three weekends -- by Mississippi State, Florida and Vandy. The Tigers will play a makeup doubleheader on Tuesday with Arkansas-Little Rock then travel to South Carolina.

Van Horn did not seem surprised that A&M is playing well.

"I picked them high in the league when the coaches did their rankings -- and I'm not saying how high," Van Horn said. "We knew what they had."

Van Horn communicates regularly with Rob Childress, the Texas A&M coach and a former Van Horn assistant. Childress will coach the pitchers for Team USA this summer, under Van Horn.

"I knew it was going to be a good A&M team," Van Horn said. "We talk to their staff. We knew they had good arms and were athletic.

"Our biggest challenge is just to get guys healthy. (Texas A&M) is hot. The LSU outfielder made an incredible play to keep them in the one game (LSU) won."

Van Horn gave the Hogs a little motivation last week with a visit to the new indoor baseball facility. He said they were all excited.

"It's incredible, it really is," Van Horn said. "We could be in it if we needed it this week. They are that close. If we were going to Vanderbilt (where the field is artificial) we'd probably get in there this week.

"They've asked the coaches to come over and hit some ground balls to see how fast the surface is, if they need to add anything to it. Our players couldn't believe how nice it was, how big it was."

Van Horn said it's already paying dividends in recruiting. He said it pushed the Hogs over the top in a battle for a commitment to a player that may have been leaning to a league rival before the visit.

"We took him in there and I think it made the difference," Van Horn said. "He committed to us the next day."

Van Horn said a report that the Hogs traveled only two catchers to Ole Miss was untrue.

"We always travel three, but we have one that we are gong to redshirt, if we can," Van Horn said. "I told him if we lose a catcher for the year, he'd be used, but not otherwise."

That would be Alex Gosser. Van Horn clarified that it would probably take a season-ending injury to Wise before Gosser's redshirt was taken off.

"We are in the same situation as every Division I program," he said. "Everyone is playing two, and traveling one more."

Van Horn said he would try to rotate two to three catchers next year.

"I want to play two and not be in this position," Van Horn said. "But I give credit to Blake this past weekend. He's improved his catching and he definitely gutted it out for the team.

"We talked about pulling him earlier, but he wanted to be out there. He asked to stay in and bat in the ninth. I told him that he couldn't just hit it, that he had to get to first somehow and he did."

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