Arkansas Seniors Still Have Something To Play For

FAYETTEVILLE -- It wasn't hard for Arkansas seniors Clay Goodwin and Scott Hode to unholster their emotions after playing what probably was their last game in Baum Stadium on Sunday.

It's always tough to say goodbye.

Goodwin and Hode, which represented the left side of the infield at third base and shortstop, respectively, for the last four years, leave behind a lot of lasting memories.

A lot of Kodak moments.

Unforturnaly, they left Baum Stadium with a picture which took a long time to develop.

Picture them being swept by No. 19 Ole Miss 9-1 -- there was a 1 hour, 36-minute weather delay -- in front of 6,783 truly die-hard Razorbacks fans in their final homestand.

Picture them learning their team still qualified for the Southeastern Conference Tournament because it won a three-way tie-breaker.

Picture them sad, then half-way happy.

"It's kind of bittersweet, I guess," Goodwin said. "You get beat 9-1 on Sunday after going 0-2 to start the weekend. It was a tough weekend. They played extremely well but we really didn't give ourselves a chance.

"I mean, I guess, four years in a row of going to the SEC tournament is nice. This may be the least excited I have been about it, though. You know, other people are going to think, ‘Well, they don't deserve to be there,' stuff like that.

"We're going to take it as we worked hard, we've put in the time. We just need to find a way to find an attitude and wins some games down there (in Hoover, Ala., just outside Birmingham).

Eighth-seeded Arkansas (37-18 overall, 13-17 in the SEC) -- it was the 2004 SEC Western Division champion -- meets No. 1 seed Florida (38-18, 20-10) at 5 p.m. Wednesday to start the tournament.

Goodwin and Hode both got base hits -- albeit only really meaningless singles -- in perhaps their last at-bats in Baum Stadium.

Maybe, in the long run, that doesn't mean much but somehow it meant a lot since both contributed so much in the grand scheme of things.

"Playing next to Scott for so long here in this stadium," Goodwin said. "It's something I'll always remember. He's a great teammate, a great friend. He's had a great career here. Good to see him get a knock his last at-bat, too."

Hode, ever the optimist, refused to believe Sunday was his last appearance in Baum Stadium.

"You never know," Hode said. "I hope it's not over here at Baum. I think we still have a chance to host a regional here.

"Anything can happen."

It, of course, would take a miracle -- say, perhaps unrealistically an SEC tournament title -- to bring the Diamond Hogs home again.

"Whatever happens," Hode said. "This has been the best four years of my life. I can't thank the fans enough. I'm just thankful to be part of such a good program.

"To have the opportunity to play here, I'm just thankful everyday. To play for these coaches, with these teammates. They are my best friends.

"I love everyone of them and I love the fans."

It's apparent the fans love the Razorbacks, too. Record numbers again showed up for home games this season.

"Now we just have to focus on Birmingham," Hode said. "We've got a chance to play some more. We got that No. 8 seed. When we get there, we can turn things around.

"Postseason is a new season. We are going to stay positive and play the game the way it's supposed to be played. We made some mistakes this weekend and we can learn from it.

"That's what we've got to do."

Hode said his sidekick Goodwin will do his part. He has faith in him and his ability.

More importantly ...

"He's my best friend, I love him," Hode said. "He's like a brother to me. We cherish the moments. It's fun. To be out there with all of these guys is fun. That's our team. We play together even through a few bumps in the road.

"Can't say enough about Clay. He always gives 110 percent all the time. Like I said, he's a great guy, a great person.

"He makes people smile."

Actually, Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn has been grinning ear-to-ear with Goodwin and Hode patrolling that left side since he's been here.

"They've been such a mainstay in my three years here," Van Horn said. "Having those guys just anchor down the left side. They've played through injuries. They've played through the good times and the bad. I'm happy with the effort and leadership they've showed with this team.

"They are steady guys."

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