Hogs Suffer 5-2 Setback
A pair of Southeastern Conference teams, Florida and Tennessee, secured two of the eight spots in the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala., May 25-29, with wins Saturday.
Arkansas, despite having the second-best overall record (36-15) in the league, is tied with Auburn for eighth in the SEC with a 12-14 record. Should Auburn and Arkansas finish in a tie, the Tigers would get the tourney bid since they won two of three games against the Hogs in early April.
To make it more confusing, Vanderbilt also sits with 12 wins but is a half game up on both Auburn and Arkansas since Game 2 of the Commodores' series at Kentucky was postponed due to rain Saturday.
Regardless, the Razorbacks are in a must-win situation in the series rubber match against Alabama at 11 a.m. today. The Hogs then wrap up the regular season with a home series against Ole Miss next weekend.
"We're just taking it one game at a time," said Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn. "If we don't make the tournament, then we don't make the tournament ... That's life. This team has been fighting through it for six weeks now and I've got to give them credit for hanging in there.
"We're not worried about the tournament. We're just worried about playing (today)."
Of course, the players are taking the same course as their coach.
"It's always crunch time for us," said senior Scott Hode, who drove in both Arkansas runs on Saturday. "We've been in this situation all year and we're not going to approach it any differently. We've just got to give it everything we've got from here on out.
"We have to come out and play like we've got nothing to lose and we'll be fine."
On the flip side, Alabama (35-17, 15-11) is tied with LSU for the Western Division lead. Alabama coach Jim Wells takes a similar one-game-at-a-time attitude as the Razorbacks and his philosophy is to not discuss the possible scenarios with his team.
"We mentioned (the standings) last week when we lost two out of three (against Mississippi State)," Wells said. "I think everyone is aware of what's going on in this day and age, so we really don't have to talk about it.
"That talk doesn't seem to work for us."
Alabama starter Brandon Belcher, an unbeaten sophomore left-hander, lasted 8 1/3 innings against Arkansas, the team he nearly signed with out of Ruston, La. It was his second appearance since suffering a torn muscle in his abdomen.
"I didn't think I could go eight (innings), but I'll take it," said Belcher, who even took an official visit to Arkansas. "Pretty much the whole game, I was just trying to throw strikes to get some ground balls and easy outs. I was just trying to throw pitches that they would get themselves out on and it worked."
Hode ended Belcher's bid for a shutout with a solo homer to left in the seventh inning. Hode drove in another run in the ninth on a single to center. Danny Hamblin was the only other Razorback with any success against Belcher as he went 3 for 4.
"(Belcher) mixed up his changeup and fastball," Van Horn said. "He threw a lot of strikes to get ahead of hitters and what he did was keep our leadoff man off (base) most of the day.
"We just didn't play very well and they did and deserved to beat us."
The Tide built a 4-0 lead with Rocky Scelfo providing the knockout blow with his two-run homer off Hogs reliever Josh Smith in the sixth inning. It was Scelfo's first SEC homer and came on a 2-1 fastball.
"I was just looking for something to pull and hit hard to move the runner," Scelfo said. "It was a fastball up and I just got a hold of it."
Alabama first scratched the scoring column when Evan Bush hit a sacrifice fly in the second inning. It added another run in the fifth without any hits when two walks and a hit batsman loaded the bases. Gabe Scott then grounded into a double play, but a run came across to make it 2-0.
Arkansas starter Shaun Seibert (5-2) lasted four-plus innings before exiting with an injury in the fifth. He allowed two runs (both unearned) on three hits and could miss action next weekend against Ole Miss after reaggravating the ulnar nerve in his right (throwing) elbow.
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