Tide Turns Arkansas Away

HOOVER, Ala. -- Ben Tschepikow did everything he was supposed to do during the final at-bat of Arkansas' 5-4 loss against Alabama on Thursday, which eliminated the eighth-seeded Razorbacks from the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

The freshman from Fayetteville showed a veteran's poise after getting behind 0-2 in the count. With two outs, the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on first, Tschepikow fouled off pitches and stayed patient long enough to work it to a full-count.

Taught since last fall to hit everything up the middle, Tschepikow did exactly that only to have his hard grounder somehow backhanded by Tide reliever David Robertson, who stumbled before setting his feet and throwing to first to end the game in front of 6,452 in Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.

"Maybe an inch to the left or whatever," Tschepikow said. "I thought I hit it pretty good and thought it was going to get through, but the pitcher made a stab at it and got it and threw me out.

"That just happens sometimes."

Had the ball gotten through for a single, the Hogs would have tied the score and put runners on first and second with hot-hitting Danny Hamblin up next.

Of course, it didn't and Arkansas (37-20), a loser of five straight, must await the NCAA Regional pairings Monday to see if its season is extended.

"We gave ourselves a chance to win the game, but we just didn't get the big hit there in the bottom of the ninth," said Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn. "The second half of the ballgame just came down to making a play or getting a bunt down or getting a big hit and Alabama did it and we didn't."

Fifth-seeded Alabama (38-20) had its winning hit come in the eighth when freshman Cale Iorg lined an RBI single to center off Hogs reliever Charley Boyce (10-9), who started the fourth and had retired 12 of 14 batters heading into the inning.

"(Boyce) mixes up his pitches well," Iorg said. "He works the plate both sides, he'll come in and he'll go away. There's no pattern really and you've just got to stay back and stay in your legs and hope that you'll get a pitch that he'll leave over the plate for you."

It was the first and only hit off Boyce in five innings and that, mixed with his team's sloppy start, humbled Alabama coach Jim Wells afterwards.

"Hopefully, this can really enlightened us on the way we should play the rest of the tournament," Wells said. "Every coach talks about timely hits and when you look and see that (Boyce) only gave up one hit ... It was a very timely hit."

Arkansas could trace back before the ninth inning to see opportunities missed that may have changed the complexion of the game.

Twice the Hogs failed to lay down sacrifice bunts.

The first came in the seventh inning when Clay Goodwin's bunt attempt turned into a soft liner to the right side of the mound. Hogs first base coach Matt Deggs appropriately yelled, 'Back!' to get runner Jake Dugger back to first base so it wouldn't result in an easy double-play.

Instead, Tide pitcher Brent Carter's diving catch came up short and Dugger was easily forced out at second.

In the eighth, pinch-hitter Stephen Robison also popped up a sacrifice bunt attempt that would have moved Hamblin, who reached on a leadoff single, into scoring position.

"That's things you can't do if you're going to win the close games," Van Horn said.

Along with Boyce, Carter helped turn what started as a slugfest into a pitchers' duel. He came on in relief with the bases loaded in the third and escaped with only one run coming across.

That run, a sacrifice fly by Hamblin, tied the score at 4-all and that's where it stood until the eighth inning. Carter allowed no earned runs on three hits while striking out seven in 6 1/3 innings.

"You look at the linescore and there wasn't a whole lot of activity," Wells said. "It was a game in which the effort -- not that it was lacking -- there just wasn't a lot of emotion in that game. But we stayed in there due to Carter and then got the big hit.

"So we were fortunate to win that game."

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