Hogs, Vols Look For Complete Series

FAYETTEVILLE -- If 17 years in the Southeastern Conference has taught Tennessee coach Rod Delmonico anything, it's that it takes a complete weekend to win a series.

His No. 21 Volunteers (17-8 overall) were ranked as high as No. 5 two weeks ago before beginning SEC play with a 1-4 record. They are in town to play No. 13 Arkansas (21-5, 2-4) in a three-game series beginning at 6:35 p.m. today in Baum Stadium.

"The SEC now has 12 teams that are capable of playing with 12 good coaches who put a lot of emphasis on winning," Delmonico said. "If you have an injury, if you have a team the doesn't play well defensively or hit well or pitch well, you're going to get beat. Any of those three things go wrong over the course of a weekend, there's a great chance that you don't win a series.

"Very seldom do you see a team hit well and pitch well, but not play defense and still win."

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said he knows exactly what Delmonico is talking about. Not executing the little things has led to Arkansas losing its four SEC games by a total of seven runs, including a pair of one-run losses.

"Whenever you lose close games, you can usually go back and look and find out why you lost the game," Van Horn said. "You didn't make a play, you didn't drive in a run from third twice with less than two outs, you left your runners out there and the game goes to extra innings and you get beat.

"If you put together a complete game, you're probably going to win 80 percent of those."

Neither team has displayed the ability to consistently pitch, play defense and hit in the same SEC series. Tennessee's start, which includes a one-run loss of its own, has Delmonico scratching his head.

"We've been sort of a mystery because we can do all three well, but we can't do them together," Delmonico said. "We've had a hard time of doing them all together. Like last weekend, we pitched well and played defense, but lost two of three games (against Kentucky). The one game we hit well and played defense and pitched, we won."

Arkansas' problem hasn't been simply hitting as much as it is hitting with runners in scoring position. The lack of production in SEC games by veterans who were counted on to produce has been the main problem for the Hogs' slow start.

However, Van Horn said he believes his upperclassmen are primed for a big weekend and can help the team through a "tough" time that's included a variety of injuries and position changes.

"You go around the horn and one hit here or one play there and we've got four wins (in SEC play)," Van Horn said. "But it's time to stop talking about all the ifs and buts and we've got to start taking advantage of things and start winning.

"If we can just hang in there to where we can get some people going and get them hot, then we'll be right in the middle of it because these other teams are going to have a bad series or two and only the strong survive. The ones who deserve to be there at the end of the year will be there."

It may be the wrong weekend to predict much from the offense since the Hogs failed to score more than four runs in any of the three games (Tennessee won two) in Knoxville last year.

Today's game will match two of the best sophomore left-handers in the country in Arkansas' Nick Schmidt and Tennessee's James Adkins. They both have identical 4-2 records, but have struggled as of late.

Adkins, who allowed two runs on nine hits in 7 1-3 innings to beat Arkansas a year ago, has 34 strikeouts in his last 25 1-3 innings, but only a 1-1 record with a 4.26 ERA in his last four starts. Schmidt has struck out 34 in his last two starts, but both ended in losses.

"Arkansas is very similar to us," Delmonico said. "They base their team around pitching and defense. They like to run and like to hit and they play hard and are aggressive. Both teams are very similar and it really kind of looks like a intrasquad scrimmage to us.

"It should be some close ball games and the team that has the best pitching and defense and timely hitting will come out on top."

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