Closeness might only count in hand grenades and drive-in movies, but Arkansas college baseball fans, at this point, probably are happy for just a close chance of making the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Pass the cigars?
Well, that's where we are, standing at the corner of walk and don't walk on a potential boulevard of broken dreams.
Hold that thought!
When defending SEC Western Division champion Arkansas (37-15 overall, 13-14 in the SEC) meets No. 19 Ole Mississippi (37-16, 15-12) in Baum Stadium this weekend, don't be surprised to see a packed house of Porker populace.
Yeah, better leave the house early for a trip to the "Field of Screams" for what could be -- but might not be -- the final time this season.
"We've got a big weekend coming up," said Razorbacks ace Nick Schmidt. "I just have to come out Friday night and give us a chance to win.
"It should be exciting."
"It's appropriate it would come down to this weekend, especially with this team," said Arkansas catcher Brian Walker. "We've had a lot of adversity this season, a lot of ups and downs, it's been a roller coaster ride.
"If we play our game, we'll do good."
Razorbacks left fielder Jake Dugger is banking on it, because he knows the possibilities of reaching the SEC Tournament again are endless.
"I think we're right in the hunt of it, you know what I'm saying?" Dugger said. "A couple of games back or something like that, anything can happen. It could come down to the last game Sunday. So, it's about playing to the very end.
"We've just got to play one game at a time."
Hogs pitching veteran, junior Charley Boyce, won't argue that's the right approach to take, albeit it's definitely a cliché.
Because it's the SEC, which is in a league of its own when it comes to unpredictability.
Even Miss Cleo -- wonder what happened to her, some have been calling for months? --wouldn't touch this one with a ten-foot tea leaf.
"It's definitely crazy," Boyce said. "That's how even we all are in this conference. I don't know how far we are out of first or whatever. Of course, in one weekend you can go from first to worst or worst to first. That's how the SEC is this year, especially in the West.
"Early on, even in the fall, you want to be playing for something on that last Sunday.
"It looks like we're going to be." Razorbacks skipper Dave Van Horn, for one, hasn't been caught off guard with this conference traffic jam heading into the final regular-season weekend.
"Yeah, it doesn't surprise me at all that there's seven or eight teams trying to make the tournament," Van Horn said. "It doesn't surprise me at all the team (No. 15 Florida) with the most (conference) wins going into the last only has 17 win because 17, 18 was what I was thinking might win it this year.
"I'll tell ya, it's been an up-and-down year for us as far as the injuries and for us to be hanging around and really have the record we have overall, the RPI that we have and having the possibility of playing in the tournament and a regional. It's a good feeling going into this final weekend."
Yo Dave, what are you really thinking?
"All I know is we're playing Friday at seven. That's got to be our approach and just really one game at a time. Don't be checking the scoreboard, try not to listen to the P.A. (public address) system.
"Just go play the game."
That's exactly what the Men of Pig or Sultans of Swine intend to do, starting at 7:05 p.m. Friday and beyond.
Weep not for Arkansas if it doesn't make the SEC Tournament because it will again be playing in the NCAA Tournament this season, which recently has become as routine as a morning cup of coffee.
"Oh yeah," Van Horn said. "We've won, I think 12 games against Top 25 teams. We play in the best league in the county, which has the best RPI by far. We're 24-1 out of conference. We've got a lot of road wins.
"I think we've earned it."
JERRY L. REED IS A SENIOR SPORTS WRITER FOR THE MORNING NEWS. E-MAIL: JREED@NWAONLINE.NET
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