‘Sweet' Victory

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Charley Boyce just may buy a Lynard Skynard CD after Sunday's 3-2 win against No. 13 Alabama in front of 4,506 in Sewell-Thomas Stadium.



The popular 1970s-era rock-n-roll band's legendary hit "Sweet Home Alabama" was played dozens of times over the public address system during this weekend's key Southeastern Conference series.

Boyce may claim the tune as his personal anthem after the right-hander pitched a complete game five-hitter Sunday to lead the Razorbacks to a 3-2 victory over the Crimson Tide and the series victory.

"If you come down here and get swept or they take two out of three from you, then you're not going to be a big fan of that song," said Boyce. "But we took two out of three from them, so I kind of like that song now.

"But instead, we'll make it, ‘Sweet Home Arkansas.'"

Boyce (10-6) felt right at home during the series as he threw 53 pitches in 2 2/3 innings to beat the Tide 5-4 on Friday. His two wins over the weekend moved him into a tie for second with Dennis Fletcher for the most career wins (26) in school history.

More importantly, the series victory here was the first for the Hogs (37-15, 13-14) since 1995 and first time they've won a Southeastern Conference series since winning two of three at South Carolina to open league play in mid-March.

Arkansas entered the weekend winless in the last 12 games in Sewell-Thomas Stadium, also known as "The Joe."

"It's great for us to win a series here," said Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn. "I had people telling me when we were leaving town, ‘Hey, just make sure you guys can get one (win).' and I kept saying that that's not what I want our players thinking.

"It was great to win that first one, but winning the third game was just a great feeling for us."

Apparently, the trick to ending a jinx is to not even be aware one exists.

"I'm sure this means a lot to everybody," said sophomore Jake Dugger, whose two-run double in the third gave Arkansas a short-lived 2-1 lead. "But I didn't know it had been that long since we'd won here until after Friday's game.

"And we needed to win two (games) no matter what happened here in the past."

Boyce was magic, retiring 12 in a row between the fourth and eighth innings to thwart any thoughts of a rally by Alabama (35-18, 15-12). Tide coach Jim Wells compared Boyce's style to Chicago Cubs ace Greg Maddux, another crafty right-hander.

"He's the consummate pitcher," said Wells, whose team lost its first SEC home series this season. "He's not overpowering, but he locates his fastball in and out and throws a nice breaking ball and changeup. There's no pattern to him, he's a real pitcher."

With the score knotted at 2-all, Van Horn wisely substituted sophomore speedster Stephen Robison for Blake Parker as a pinch runner in the seventh inning. Robison reached third after a single by Craig Gentry and a walk to Dugger loaded the bases.

Then when Alabama reliever Brent Carter's fastball traveled to the backstop for a wild pitch, Robison was able to race home and slide under Carter's tag for the go-ahead run.

"We wanted to put some pressure on (Carter)," Van Horn said. "We had (him) thinking about (Robison) and I'm thinking we're going to get a two- or three-run lead and then all the sudden, there's two outs, but we got a break with a wild pitch."

Arkansas spotted Alabama a 1-0 lead when Emeel Salem, who hit a leadoff double, scored from second on a two-base throwing error by Hogs second baseman Ben Tschepikow.

Then in the third, Arkansas answered with Dugger's two-run double to left-center field. It scored Tschepikow and Blake Parker, who reached on a walk and hit-by-pitch, respectively.

Alabama even the score at 2-all in the fourth when Evan Bush led off the inning with a solo homer to center. It was one of the few mistakes Boyce made in his first start in more than a month. He walked one batter (he was pitching around Bush with first base open in the eighth) and struck out five by throwing 72 strikes in 102 pitches.

"I've been waiting for my name to be called (as a starter) for a while," said Boyce, who was told Saturday night he'd throw Sunday's first pitch. "I wanted to get back in there because I feel a little more comfortable as a starter even though the last time I started a game here (in 2003) I got hammered.

"But this ... this was a big-time win for us."

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