Hogs Zone In On The Road

FAYETTEVILLE -- Since controversy continues to swirl about Arkansas seniors Scott Bridges and Casey Rowlett, it's probably a good thing the Razorbacks are in Auburn, Ala., today for a three-game series.

The No. 9 Hogs' top two hitters were suspended indefinitely for "violations of team policy," and rumors have been rampant since coach Dave Van Horn announce it on Tuesday.

"Anybody that works as hard as those two guys do, you feel bad for them because they screwed up," Van Horn said. "If they were bad people, then it would be different. But they're not bad people. They're good guys and they're well-respected and well liked by their teammates."

Without them, Arkansas (21-4, 3-3) will battle the No. 23 Tigers (19-9, 3-3) at 7 p.m. today at Plainsman Park.

"It's probably a real good time to go on the road," Van Horn said. "Just to get on that plane and start thinking about beating Auburn. Just trying to keep them as focused as possible.

"Just go out and play well. I think that would be the best thing, just get back on the field and play.

"I just feel bad for these guys having to deal with this stuff."

Auburn is coming off a 9-6 loss to Samford, but won two of three games at LSU last week. First-year coach Tom Slater said playing the Hogs minus Bridges and Rowlett still is going to be tough.

"They're both great players, but coach Van Horn and his staff do such a great job," Slater said. "They've got so many good players there that I'm sure they'll handle it well."

The former Auburn assistant (1995-2000) spent the 2004 season as Florida's third-base coach. He remembers how well Van Horn's team was prepared during last season's SEC opener in Gainesville, Fla. when the Gators won two of three against the Hogs.

"They were pretty focused there and that was the opening weekend of the (SEC) season," Slater said. "I just really like the way they play and the way their team goes about their business. I know that they'll be very focused and ready to play against us."

Everything was rolling right for Arkansas heading into last weekend's home series against Mississippi State. A ninth-inning meltdown during a 5-3 loss Friday led to a nine-inning no show during a 13-4 Bulldogs blowout on Saturday.

Behind a solid pitching performance by Charley Boyce, the Razorbacks looked inspired to rebound with a 10-5 win Sunday.

"It's was tough to be wining and let one slip away (on Friday)," Van Horn said. "But we played really well Sunday after being down three runs and it was looking like deja vu from Saturday.

"But they showed me a lot right there (on Sunday). That was a huge game for us."

The games this weekend may be even bigger and the results could tell a lot about how the Razorbacks have responded to the loss of two team leaders.

John Henry Marquardt will start at second in Bridges' spot while Craig Gentry, who has started six of the last seven games in right field, will start in center in place of Rowlett.

Regardless of the personnel, Van Horn said he likes his team's chances this weekend, especially since they're on the road.

"Last year's team focused pretty well on the road because we knew how much harder it is to win on the road," Van Horn said. "Not in an intimidated way, just in a ‘Hey, we better not mess up.' We've got to play good. We've got to come out and let's throw the first punch. Let's score in the first or second inning and get the lead. Go out swinging the bats.

"I think it may be instilled in our team a little bit when going on the road."

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