Arkansas Junior Gives Team A Chance To Win

HOOVER, Ala. -- One almost could add Charley Boyce to death and taxes as a sure thing.

Almost.

One thing's for sure, though, the Razorbacks junior right-hander is the one guy you want on the mound when you absolutely, positively need a chance to win.

Arkansas needed one in the worst way Thursday and Boyce did everything he could to supply it in a loser's bracket game against Alabama in the Southeastern Conference Tournament here in Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.

Because of a timely one-out RBI single by Cale Iorg in the eighth inning, Alabama beat Arkansas 5-4 in yet another heartbreaker for Boyce, who's buoyed the Razorbacks to victory so many times before.

"That's part of it, that's baseball," Boyce said. "Maybe I'll catch a win along the way, maybe I don't deserve. Maybe a loss I don't deserve.

"It all equals out in the end.

"It's been one of those years that there was a lot of games that could have gone either way."

Boyce worked an economic five innings of relief for starter Lee Land on Thursday, allowing only one hit on 63 pitches in taking his second-straight close-but-no-cigar decision.

"I guess they told me in the fourth, I'd be going in," Boyce said. "My thinking? Basically, get the leadoff hitter out and after that just try to take one batter at a time.

"Near the end, I kind of ran out of steam a little bit."

It was Boyce's second-straight close shave -- physically, one couldn't tell since his 5 o'clock shadow showed up around noon -- of his two cameo appearances in the tournament.

In the tourney opener Wednesday night, Boyce was charged with a 9-8 loss against top-seeded Florida.

In that game -- Arkansas led 8-2 heading into the eighth before the Gators made mincemeat out of reliever Daryl Maday -- before Boyce eventually came in and pitched one complete inning and threw 34 pitches.

Thursday, Boyce was toeing the slab again.

"We were going to pull Charley around the 90-pitch count (over two days)" said Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn. "I think that's where he was at the end of the eighth when he got the last out.

"He did a great job."

Razorbacks first baseman Danny Hamblin nodded.

"You know, everytime he goes out on the mound it builds a lot of confidence on the team," Hamblin said. "He's pitched pretty well the last three weeks.

"It just goes to show what kind of heart he has. It shows how much he loves to go out there and compete.

"It seems like he pitches every game."

Point well taken. In 57 games played, Boyce has made 27 appearances.

Boyce might have done better against the Crimson Tide had he not had to work out of the bullpen against the Gators the night before.

Was it a factor?

"I don't know," Boyce said. "I wasn't planning on throwing in that situation (Wednesday night). I got called and did the best I could do.

"Who's to say if it helped or it hurt me to pitch?"

Boyce, who pitched a complete game in a 3-2 win at Alabama on May 15, basically was the only real hope the Razorbacks had Thursday in this elimination game.

Alabama coach Jim Wells knew Boyce would be a factor.

Almost a sure thing.

Because he's seen Boyce do amazing things before.

"He's obviously a tough kid," Wells said. "What's interesting about him, he's not exactly overpowering, certainly not like a lot of guys we've faced.

"He pitches spots, he's got a little sinker, he can spot up his fastball, throws his breaking ball for strikes off the plate.

"You know, he's excellent. He's done a great job for them over the past two years.

"He's the perfect college pitcher."

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