Even Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn showed a disdain for the event, wishing his players didn't have to risk injury or waste energy before NCAA Regional play.
This year, though, Arkansas' approach in Hoover, Ala., will be drastically different. The Razorbacks (38-18, 18-12) have lost six of their last nine games. And they feel like they have a lot to prove before likely playing host to a regional in Fayetteville.
"The past couple of years, we went there, and we really didn't do too well," Arkansas third baseman Logan Forsythe said. "But it's different this year. We're not playing so great right now. We need to turn it around. A couple of the seniors even said, 'Let's go win it.'"
Arkansas' quest for its first-ever SEC Tournament title begins with a 10 a.m. game Wednesday morning against seventh-seeded Alabama (31-24, 15-15). Not exactly the opponent Razorback fans hoped their slumping team would draw in the first round.
Arkansas dropped two of three games last weekend in Tuscaloosa.
In the series opener on May 11, the Crimson Tide posted a 10-0 victory with staff ace Tommy Hunter on the mound. Hunter, a 6-foot-4 sophomore right-hander, struck out seven and allowed just five hits in eight scoreless innings.
He'll face Arkansas again Wednesday.
"He threw extremely well against us, and I know he threw extremely well on Friday and beat Mississippi State," Van Horn said. "He's kind of a hot pitcher."
Forsythe said the Razorbacks would need to stick to the plan Van Horn gave them against Hunter. They didn't collectively heed their coach's advice on Saturday in Ole Miss' 5-0 victory in Fayetteville.
"Some guys stayed with the plan, and some didn't," Forsythe said. "We can't do that. We all need to follow the plan, especially against a pitcher like Tommy.
"He battles out there."
Van Horn said the early start time didn't bother him.
"It's fine," Van Horn said. "I'd rather play at 10 in the morning than real late. A lot of times you never know what you're going to get (at that time). You just have to get up and get it going.
"Alabama will have a lot of fans. They'll probably have eight or nine thousand (fans) there, and that's fine."
NCAA Tournament seeding is the most important reason as to why Arkansas will treat the SEC Tournament more seriously. Right now, the Hogs are in danger of drawing a more difficult prospective Super Regional foe than they thought they would a few weeks back.
"We're going to host. But where are we going to be seeded?" Van Horn said. "I don't know. I think naturally the better we do in the tournament, I think it could really help us. We're going to go out there and try to win every game."
Razorbacks Draw Alabama To Open SEC Tournamen
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