Arkansas led 5-1 and 8-6, but two unearned runs in the eighth proved the difference as Southeast Missouri rallied for a 12-11 college baseball victory Wednesday night to split the two-game baseball series.
It was the seventh loss in eight games for the Razorbacks, not exactly what Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn wanted with No. 1 LSU in town for a three-game series beginning Thursday night. LSU and Arkansas meet at 6 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday. The first two are on the SEC Network, the finale on SEC Network Plus.
Van Horn shrugged his shoulders when asked if the bad streak could become mental for the 10-9 Razorbacks.
"It is what it is," Van Horn said. "We've lost some heartbreakers. We've thrown away some. We are going through some growing pains. We are very average. It's still early, but we need to win some games."
Southeast Missouri (10-9) gave the Hogs a head start, walking five straight batters to contribute to a five-run third for the Hogs. Relievers Cannon Chadwick and Parker Sanburn suffered through control problems, too, as the Red Hawks reclaimed the lead, 9-8, in the sixth. The Hogs pulled even again, 10-10, with two unearned runs in the seventh.
Lance Phillips relieved for the Hogs in the eighth. He gave up a single, then fielded a come-back grounder and threw wildly to second. Catcher Tucker Pennell was wild on a throw to first on a sacrifice bunt to plate one run. The eventual game winner came around on a sacrifice fly.
Van Horn said the wet conditions contributed. Rain fell during several periods of the four hour, 28-minute game and there was a thick mist for the last three innings of the 50-degree night.
"The conditions were getting bad," Van Horn said. "I'm sure that was part of it (on the two errors). They scored two and that was it."
The Hogs answered with a single run in the eighth when Tyler Spoon's swinging bunt was thrown away by the catcher in a play similar to what cost the home team. Bobby Wernes, who had walked, scored from second. The Hogs filled the bases, but Michael Bernal, who had homered in the fourth, struck out to end the inning.
Arkansas closer Jacob Stone put down the Red Hawks in order in the ninth and Alex Winkleman did the same to the Hogs. Winkleman is the top weekend starter for Southeast Missouri.
Joe Serrano provided a scare with a nine-pitch at bat that ended with a fly out against the wall in left. Launched into the mist and east wind, the towering drive missed from being a tying homer by just one foot.
"He hit it hard and it had a lot of back spin," Van Horn said. "It looked like a home run, but the wind kept it in. It was a great at bat. Hopefully, that will give him some confidence."
Van Horn was not hard on his team.
"We were in a tough situation with the way the schedule worked out," he said. "We are playing five in a row. We've got a great team coming in for league play.
"We were facing a good offensive team (in Southeast Missouri) and we battled. They brought in their ace to close it out. He threw seven innings on Sunday. We didn't think we could do that."
Van Horn did use Stone after the senior right-hander pitched one inning on Tuesday.
"We were going to get him out there for one inning regardless," Van Horn said. "He only threw eight pitches yesterday and 15 today and that's just about right."
Van Horn wasn't firm in his starting rotation for the 19-2 Tigers. Ace Trey Killian will pitch the finale on Saturday.
"We don't have it exactly the way we want yet with Trey," Van Horn said. "Going early in this series, he don't have his rest right yet to be first. We want him first, but we may be a couple of weeks out for that."
Dominic Taccolini will pitch the opener. Van Horn said he'll decide on the Friday night starter after seeing who is needed Thursday night.
On the Tigers, Van Horn said it's clear they are one of the top teams in the country, ranked first or second by all of the polls.
"They are definitely one of the four or five best teams in the country," he said. "You look at their stats, they can beat you a number of ways. They've got great starting pitching, a great bullpen and they swing the bats."
The Hogs used six pitchers against the Red Hawks, giving up 14 hits. Five different visitors had at least two hits. SEMO also used six pitchers, giving up 12 hits to the Hogs. Rick Nomura led the way with three hits. Clark Eagan and Bernal each had two hits.
Southeast Missouri 12, Arkansas 11
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