It was lost less than two weeks ago with the indefinite suspensions of team leaders Casey Rowlett and Scott Bridges for violations of team policy. After hitting a low point with consecutive losses at Auburn last weekend, the No. 14 Razorbacks (27-6 overall, 7-5 in Southeastern Conference play) have rebounded with six straight wins after sweeping the Commodores (20-10, 5-7).
They look to keep rolling Tuesday night in Tulsa against Oral Roberts before hosting Southwest Missouri State on Wednesday.
"This was a big confidence boost for us," said Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn. "I was just really proud of how hard these guys played. They could've easily been satisfied with just winning the series (after Saturday's come-from-behind 5-4 win), but they came out and really gave us our best effort against maybe the best pitcher (Vanderbilt starter David Price) we've seen all weekend."
Perhaps even more important than gaining confidence, the Razorbacks learned how to win as a team during the series.
"Every game we played this weekend was with everybody," said Hogs first baseman Danny Hamblin, who gave the Razorbacks a 3-0 lead with a solo homer in Sunday's eighth inning. "There wasn't any one guy who won any of the games and it was great to see us finally put it all together."
Hogs pitchers Devin Collis, Daryl Maday and Charley Boyce combined on a nine-hit shutout. It was the first time an Arkansas pitching staff has shut out an SEC opponent since 2002 and the first time Vanderbilt hadn't scored in a game since last season.
Collis started and gave the Hogs 3 1/3 solid innings before handing off to Maday (4-0), who made his second appearance in as many days, and scattered two hits in two innings to pick up the win.
Boyce, the winner of Friday's game, pitched around four hits over the final 3 2/3 innings to earn his second career save.
"It's one thing to get out here and just beat somebody by 20 runs," Boyce said. "But it's another thing to win close games like this to get your confidence going because somewhere down the road when we may be down a couple of runs, you believe you can come back and win it because you've done it before."
Other than Boyce, Van Horn said it might be the last weekend the Razorbacks' recycling program will be in effect where they have to use several pitchers more than once during a series.
"It worked out this weekend," Van Horn said. "I think it's the thing to do right now until we get some guys going again. I've done it before when guys were struggling.
"Sometimes you can take a lot of pressure off a pitcher when you say, ‘Hey, just go out and get us a couple of innings.'"
The play of Sunday's game came on defense with the Razorbacks clinging to a 1-0 lead. There was one out and runners on second and third in the sixth when Hogs center fielder Craig Gentry came up throwing after making a routine catch to cut down Vanderbilt's Warner Jones attempting to score from third.
"When it went out there, we in the dugout thought he was going to throw him out," Van Horn said. "He did a good job of getting behind the ball and he was ready to throw when he caught it, had his feet set and just threw a strike.
"It really wasn't even close ... he threw him out by two or three steps."
Clearly frustrated afterwards, Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin agreed that Gentry's inning-ending double-play was the turning point in a tight game.
"That's one of our fastest guys with Warner at third base," Corbin said. "So I knew was going to send him and I'd do it again because he would have to make a perfect throw -- which he did.
"But we couldn't get anything going all weekend. It was a damn struggle from start to finish in every game. It was a very tough series because Arkansas made it tough."
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