The Razorbacks (38-19) blew a 4-0 lead during a 5-4 loss against the Golden Eagles (38-14) in Tulsa on May 2. They were supposed to play at Baum Stadium on April 25, but the game was postponed due to rain. After talk of making the game up a day after the Tulsa trip, it was never rescheduled.
"To me it was kind of a blessing for our team, we were a little tired," said Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn. "I don't think it really would have mattered if this was the second or third time we've played.
"Just playing once, we got to find out a lot about them and how good they are."
Oral Roberts coach Rob Walton would have liked to play again for RPI purposes, but doesn't believe it would have helped improve his chances in this matchup.
"We had seen enough of each other in that one game," Walton said.
Van Horn remembers running into a roadblock in the form of ORU reliever Sean Jarrett in the loss. Jarrett started five games in March before being sent to the bullpen, where he's 4-0 with six saves and a 0.31 ERA in 14 appearances. He struck out six in the final three innings to beat Arkansas with the help of Chad Rothford's homer that led off the eighth and sparked the rally.
"(Jarrett) basically shut us down the last couple of innings and didn't give us a chance to really do much," Van Horn said. "I kept telling the coaches, 'We've got to score a couple of more runs or we're going to get beat.' And sure enough, the next thing you know, they score three runs and we lose the game 5-4."
Jarrett may make another relief appearance today if starter Nick Jones (7-4, 3.67), a senior right-hander who's been pitching with a bone spur in his elbow, runs into trouble against Hogs ace left-hander Nick Schmidt (9-3, 2.98). When healthy, Walton said Jones can be "special" as evident by his four complete games, including a no-hitter in a 9-0 win against Chicago State less than a month ago.
Because of the earlier matchup, Van Horn and his staff didn't have to search the Internet or call coaching buddies in an effort to get a scouting report on Oral Roberts, a team he said makes few mistakes and has pitchers who fill up the strike zone.
The Golden Eagles led the Mid-Continent Conference with a .972 fielding percentage while their pitching staff sports an impressive 3.54 ERA.
"Just typical Oral Roberts," Van Horn said. "They've got a good club and you can't look past them or they'll whip you. That's what happened that night. We didn't say much to the club on the way home and we didn't say much right after the game. We just kind of got our stuff and left.
"We were disappointed, but we got beat by a good team."
Oral Roberts coach Rob Walton had similar praise for the Razorbacks, who still owns a 59-32 advantage in the all-time series despite this season's loss. He said his team was happy to win after a seventh-inning error by third baseman Blake Parker helped open the door for ORU to end a near decade-long losing streak against Arkansas.
"We won that game late and we were fortunate they didn't tie it up or we'd still be playing," Walton said. "Anytime you're going to play Arkansas or a Van Horn-type club, you better get ready because the kids play hard and they're very talented and physical.
"If your not at the top of your game, you're going to get beat, so we're going to have to play extremely well to compete with them."
If today's game is anything like the first, it should come down to the wire. While it didn't help the first time around, a close game could favor the Razorbacks since more than half of their games have been decided by two runs or less.
They're 17-12 in those games while ORU is 10-8 in games decided by two runs or less.
"I don't know if that's a plus or a negative because I've gotten a lot of gray hairs because of it," Van Horn said. "We played (close games) so I don't think it's going to bother us or we'll be all uptight about it if it gets into the bottom of the eighth inning and it's 2-1 either way.
"We know we'll have a very good chance to win the game if we just put something together and don't panic."
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