Road Hogs Make Good Impression On The Diamond

FAYETTEVILLLE -- As the Arkansas college baseball team hitched up the buckboard and headed out of Arlington, Texas, on Sunday p.m., clearly the mission had been completed.

And it didn't have to be aborted.

Because the Diamond Hogs rallied for three runs in the 12th inning in the second game of a doubleheader against Texas-Arlington, they found themselves headed home with a 4-0 record to usher in the season.

Break out the confetti.

These proud-as-punch Porkers opened the 2005 campaign with a 13-3 win against Dallas Baptist in Dallas on Friday. On Saturday, the Men of Pig beat DBU 8-1 in a rain-shortened game in Clay Gould Ballpark on the Texas-Arlington campus.

Arkansas followed that up with a 2-1 win against UTA and a 4-1 extra-inning sweep against the Mavericks on Sunday as the sun began to set in the west.

So, what did Razorbacks skipper Dave Van Horn say to his team, which opened the season on the road for the first time in 11 years?

Well, it was a mouthful.

"First off, No. 1, the bottom line ... we're always talking about it, just find a way to win," Van Horn said. "No. 1, it was a great weekend, wins and looses wise. Pitching, I thought, was outstanding, defense was solid. We just need to make some improvements, though, offensively because we felt like we didn't drive in people in the middle of the order and those are some experienced guys. They just didn't get it done.

"I just told them we've got to get better. But what a great weekend, great start and great learning experience."

What did Texas-Arlington coach Jeff Curtis think?

"(Arkansas) has got a lot of good athletes and starting pitching," Curtis said. "Great defense on the infield and they do a pretty job of swinging the bats and I think they'll get better as the season goes along.

"They're a good team."

Apparently, Texas-Arlington and Dallas Baptist aren't too shabby, either.

Show me the scoreboard!

On Tuesday, UTA beat No. 8 Baylor 9-6 just 90-something miles down the pavement and Dallas Baptist beat perennial powerhouse Oklahoma State 10-2, also on the road.

Yo Dave, did you notice?

"I just heard that information earlier today (Wednesday) and I was glad to hear it," Van Horn said. "I hope those teams go out and win a lot of games.

"Anytime you beat good people, it helps your RPI, naturally. You know, you beat them on the road in their ballpark, it's big. It just sends the message we're playing good teams. They are solid teams that don't make mistakes. Then, they go out and beat good people."

Next up for these Sultans of Swine is Louisiana Tech, beginning Friday p.m., again an historic quality opponent, and again on the road.

Gas up the bus.

Since Arkansas is 4-0 away from Baum Stadium, methinks it'll be equal to the task when it has its home opener Feb. 25 against Minnesota.

Van Horn would like nothing more than sweeping that Louisiana Tech series and bringing a perfect record back to Fayetteville and the "Field of Screams" against Minnesota.

Starting the season on the road brought some positives.

"Well, ya know, I think the plusses are you gain a lot of experience on the road, naturally," Van Horn said. "You get a chance to travel, you get the experience of what it would be like (for younger players) to go on a conference (Southeastern Conference) road trip.

"I think it kind of brings the team together a little bit. You get a chance to figure out how to win on the road. I always tell our players, 'On the road, you gotta win by two, three, four runs.' If it's close, you're in trouble. There's things that aren't going to go your way."

So, what did Van Horn glean from the first road trip?

"Well, it's still early, but what I like is they think they are going to win," Van Horn said. "Even the other day (Sunday), they (Texas-Arlington) had the bases loaded in the ninth with one out. I don't think ANY of the returners thought we were going to lose. They knew there was a chance. They knew we had to make a play. They were up to that.

"We brought in a returner (Trey Holloway) and he came in and he got the strikeout, then ground ball. Then we knew we were going to the win the game. The new guys got to see that, sense that, feel that.

"And they started believing it."

So did a lot of folks.

JERRY L. REED IS A SENIOR SPORTS WRITER FOR THE MORNING NEWS. E-MAIL: JREED@NWAONLINE.NET

Hawgs Daily Top Stories