Hogs Motivated For Seniors, More

FAYETTEVILLE -- Rosie is alive and doing well.

The baby water turtle will be back where she was first spotted -- in the Arkansas dugout in Baum Stadium -- for the No. 15 Razorbacks' series against Auburn that begins at 7:05 p.m. today.

The Hogs rode Rosie -- named after Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb., site of the College World Series -- to four straight wins after she was found nearly two weeks ago trying to climb the dugout steps. But her magic disappeared on the road as Arkansas lost its final two games at Ole Miss over the weekend. That shouldn't have been a surprise considering turtles and the road often don't mix.

The Razorbacks (35-17, 15-12 in the Southeastern Conference) sound as if they've found another source of motivation against Auburn (22-31, 9-18), a team mathematically eliminated from postseason play.

Just like Rosie, it was right there in their own dugout.

"Our seniors," said outfielder Jake Dugger. "They've done so much for this program and deserve to end their last home series on a high note."

A berth in next Wednesday's SEC Tournament is secured and with it comes a likely spot in an NCAA Regional. Arkansas should be in position to host a regional with its high attendance and RPI, but may need to win this series to secure its footing with the selection committee.

Nothing is guaranteed, especially when it comes to accepting regional bids.

"This could be the last time for some of these guys to play here, bottom line," said UA catcher Brian Walker. "We sure would like to put together three good games for them, just in case we don't make it back here."

The Hogs are tied with Ole Miss for fourth in the overall standings and still have an outside shot to pass Alabama for the Western Division title. The Rebels own the tiebreaker and, historically, only four SEC schools are named regional sites.

So, as Walker pointed out, this could be the last time seniors like Charley Boyce, Chris Hollensworth, Craig Gentry, Devin Collis and Trey Holloway play in Baum Stadium. There also is several draft-eligible, third-year players who may be taking their final swings in Fayetteville.

"We're trying to let them play as long as they can, all the way to Omaha," said Hogs first baseman Danny Hamblin. "We want to ensure that this is not their last games at home and to do that, we need to take care of business against Auburn to try to make sure we get a regional."

While the Razorbacks are filled with motivating factors, Auburn is searching for some. Without hope of the postseason, the young Tigers will be playing for pride and trying to end their season on a high note. They'll also look to end a season-long seven-game losing streak.

"Three weeks ago, they were right in the middle of it," said Hogs coach Dave Van Horn. "I know they're disappointed that these are their last three games of the year and a lot of their kids may say, 'What the heck ... Let's just go play."

"A lot of times, that can be a dangerous thing."

Arkansas will be without Hollensworth, who leads the team with a .322 batting average, for at least the first two games of the series. He missed last weekend's series at Ole Miss with back problems and Van Horn hopes to get him back for Saturday's senior day game.

That means Dugger likely will start in Hollensworth's spot in right and Clint Arnold will replace Dugger in left. Van Horn said junior Blake Parker will probably start at third base for today's game after Logan Forsythe manned the position for the past six games.

Van Horn said the key will be not helping Auburn get on a roll starting with tonight's game that pits junior left-hander Nick Schmidt (8-2, 2.76) against Tigers' freshman right-hander Paul Burnside (2-2, 4.28)

"What I told our players was just to take care of business," Van Horn said. "Don't give them an opportunity to let good things happen. Naturally, in a three-game series, they're going to get their hits and make their plays, but we need to make sure that we don't give them anything to give them a chance to really get excited."

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