Razorbacks Must Get Rolling Again
Those three were all part of the last Arkansas team to lose a Southeastern Conference series against Kentucky in legendary coach Norm DeBriyn's final season four years ago. But the Hogs ended up rebounding from the losses and put together a miraculous run through the postseason that ended at the Clemson Super Regional, just one game shy of a trip to the College World Series.
That kind of magic may be needed again since the Razorbacks are tied with Auburn for ninth-place in the overall league standings and only the top eight teams play in the conference tournament in Hoover, Ala., later this month.
"We've got guys that did it four years ago and we're all trying to feed off them," said Hogs freshman catcher Brian Walker. "We've got to stop playing not to lose and start playing to win. We still know how to win. I mean, it's not like we're trying to lose. We want to win. We've just got to get it rolling again.
"We didn't wake up at four in the morning all fall to come out and just give up this late in the season."
With only three SEC series remaining against Florida, Alabama and Ole Miss, it's getting extremely late in the season for the Razorbacks. If they're going to make a run, the time is now.
"We've got three series left and they're all against teams that are right there to win the league," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "All of them have starting pitching, hitting and defense and we're a team that has struggled in all three categories with guys that have played at this level very much."
One reason the Hogs have dropped seven of their last eight SEC games is the losses of seniors Casey Rowlett and Scott Bridges to indefinite suspensions for violations of an unspecified NCAA policy on March 29. There also is the loss of senior closer Trey Holloway which has caused some maneuvering on the pitching staff like longtime starter Charley Boyce being relegated to the bullpen.
On top of that, the Hogs lost second baseman John Henry Marquardt for the season. He's scheduled for arthroscopic surgery today to repair damaged cartilage in his right knee.
"What we've done is we've played well enough to win," Van Horn said. "We found a way to win a lot of games early when we had a full squad. Once we've lost those guys, there's been a huge difference in hits, stolen bases and defense. We haven't played good defense for the last month and a half and our starting pitching has been disappointing.
"It's been a fight, but we plan to keep fighting."
Promotions O' Plenty
Kentucky's Hagan Stadium may have the worst attendance figures in the SEC (less than 600 per SEC game), but it's definitely not from a lack of effort by the UK promotions department.
There's something going on between most innings and some of the more unique promotions include the "Cookie Row" which gives away cookies to all the people sitting in a particular row, the "Donuts for Donuts" which gives all the fans in attendance two dozen Krispy-Kreme donuts if an opponent is shut out, the "Big Mac for Big Smack" which gives away Big Macs for any KU homers hit over the McDonald's signs in both power alleys in a designated inning.
By far the most popular seems to be the "Corn Hole Toss" which a pair of lucky fans get to toss bean bags (that are actually filled with dried corn) into a hole on a wooden box for prizes midway through the second inning.
Arkansas sophomore Jake Dugger found himself in the nine-hole of the batting order for the first time as a Razorback.
Dugger is a left-handed hitter and Kentucky did start a left-handed pitcher, but that wasn't the only reason for his move in the order. Dugger has been struggling for the past month in SEC games. He was 0 for 5 in Saturday's opener and didn't play the second game of the doubleheader.
"Just trying to get him back in the lineup," Van Horn said. "Even though we were facing a lefty, I did want to get him in there for some defense and just to be kind of a second leadoff-type guy."
On Sunday, Dugger was hitless in three at-bats to drop his SEC batting average to .176 (12 for 68). Dugger has been in the leadoff spot once, the two-hole five times, the three-hole 16 times and he's batted cleanup 17 times.
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