Hogs Close Home Baseball Schedule

Arkansas closes its home schedule with a weekend series with Alabama. It's the last time at Baum Stadium for five seniors, including Michael Bernal and Rick Nomura.

It's the last time around at home for Rick Nomura and Michael Bernal, the solid senior double play combination for the Arkansas baseball team.

Arkansas closes its Baum Stadium schedule this weekend with three games at Alabama, perhaps needing several victories to avoid ending the season next weekend at Mississippi State.

Arkansas (26-22, 7-17) is tied for the bottom of the SEC standings with Missouri and Tennessee. Auburn and Georgia both have eight SEC victories and stand one game ahead of those three. Two of those five will be left out of the 12-team SEC tournament. With six games left, Arkansas and Tennessee are the two teams out, with Missouri holding the tiebreaker.

"We know at this point we need a series win," Bernal said. "It's our last weekend here and our second to last SEC weekend.

"We know we have to win these next two SEC series."

Nomura said, "It's huge for us. It's one step at a time, but we need to win games to get to the tournament."

Nomura said the team has taken the words from the Razorback Fight Song.

"It's what it says, Never Yield," Nomura said. "You keep going forward, one step at a time and get after it."

Alabama (27-21, 12-12) is scheduled to meet the Hogs at 6:30 p.m. Friday, 6 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn has changed his starting rotation. Zach Jackson likely moves back to the closer role after struggling throw strikes in his start last weekend at LSU. Dominic Taccolini and Keaton McKinney are the scheduled starters for the first two games with Sunday left unannounced.

"Zach threw too many pitches (in his last start)," Van Horn said. "The other thing, he has a knack for closing out games. If we get a chance to win a game Friday night, we'll use him."

Nomura, a Hawaii product, will have his parents in the stands for his last weekend at Baum.

"It's gone by so fast," said Nomura, a two-year Razorback after joining the team from junior college. "I've made a lot of memories including last year with the Super Regional here. To see my parents in the stands will be special."

Bernal, another JC transfer, will have his father Hector in the stands.He's driving in from El Paso.

"Playing here for the last time definitely crosses your mind," Bernal said. "It's part of the journey and you knew it was coming.

"I can say it's been exciting and I'm grateful for everything that's happened here. It's been great for me."

Bernal and Nomura are a potent combination at second base. The Hogs led the SEC in double plays turned last year and sit sixth this season.

"It's fun," Bernal said. "Every day Rick and I are out there is a good day for us. You can tell we make it fun every time we are out there."

However, no one likes the losing. There has been adversity at every turn this season.

"It's tough," Bernal said. "No one has ever been through anything like this as far as a team.

"The good thing about it, it prepares you for life. Baseball is a lot like life. There will be adversity. Everyone says baseball is a learning experience."


The other seniors on the squad are pitcher Doug Willey, catcher Tucker Pennell and first baseman Cullen Gassaway.

"We are a tight team," Nomura said. "What we have said is that we have to enjoy the moment, not worry about what has happened.

"Yes, this has been tough. But it's baseball."

Junior Clark Eagan said, "We are all surprised where we are right now. No one has ever been in this position."

Van Horn said he's not familiar with this situation, but quickly added, "It's not about me. I'm just trying to keep these guys motivated and not let it happen again."

What he doesn't want to happen again is the late collapses like last weekend at LSU when a 9-1 lead was blown.

"We've had situations this year where if there is a way to give one away, we've found it and it's snow balled," Van Horn said. "The Saturday night game, we were up 9-1 and couldn't hold it and couldn't score more runs.

"This is our last home series and we need to figure out how to get past a few teams and the other thing, send these seniors out the right way."

The Hogs have made it to the NCAA tournament the last 14 seasons, 13 under Van Horn.

"We've had some luck along the way," Van Horn said. "This year we haven't made our breaks. There are six or seven games with something here or there, we could have flipped those games and we'd be in a better position.

"I do know that last weekend those first two games (at LSU) there was not much difference between the two teams. That's hard to swallow when (a three-game sweep) happens."


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