Arkansas Seniors Enjoying The Ride

HOOVER, Ala. -- Arkansas seniors Danny Hamblin and Jake Dugger have a better grip on history than most players on the team.

Although they are in uncharted waters, they kind of like their chances of winning the Southeastern Conference Tournament. In the past two years, the Razorbacks made early exits. It was two-and-out, something Hamblin and Dugger didn't like too much.

Because it won it's first two games of the tournament, Arkansas spent Friday working out at Hoover High School.

"It's nice to have a day off," Dugger said. "Well, it's not a day off but it's good not to be playing today, trying to just stay in the tournament."

As freshmen in 2004, Hamblin and Dugger won twice and lost twice before heading back to Fayetteville.

"This is kind of nice, starting out 2-0," Hamblin said. "It feels good, man, especially the way we are playing. The pitching is going really good, we're finally getting some timely hitting. I think the biggest thing for us is the offense is going. We're getting a run or two in the early innings and then get some big hits later.

"Those hits break the other team's back."

Hamblin said hanging around longer increases his team's chance of earning one of the eight Super Regionals.

"It would be hard for us not to get a Super if we end up winning this tournament," Hamblin said. "A lot of people are thinking maybe South Carolina will get one, too. Maybe if we keep playing and doing good, we won't get overlooked."

Dugger, too, thinks a good showing could go a long way toward gaining more national exposure.

But ...

"It could help us get a national seed," Dugger said. "Either way, hosting a regional is a big deal. Winning two-of-three in a Super Regional, we can do that anywhere and against anyone.

"It's important just to get back on the winning track heading into postseason. Winning the SEC Tournament ... you beat the best teams in the country.

"You deserve it."

Keeping It Real

Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn wasn't keeping his team on a short leach Friday.

Other than having a curfew, the players were free to enjoy a day off from playing in the SEC Tournament.

Following a loose one-hour workout, Van Horn dismissed his team.

"We're just going to let them relax and try and keep them focused," Van Horn said. "I think that's the key. When you're on the road this long ... just trying to keep these guys busy. We are in a good location with restaurants and malls and things like that so they can move around a little bit.

"And any of them that want to go to the tournament, we'll take them to the tournament."

Nutt Bouncing Back

Arkansas designated hitter Jeff Nutt wasn't kicked to the curb after slumping at the plate most of this month.

After going 0-for-21, Nutt singled to right against South Carolina on Thursday. It ended a streak dating back to May 6 when he went 2-for-3 against LSU.

"He's swinging the bat a lot better," Van Horn said. "He took a walk, got a base hit. You know, when we were winning regularly, he was in the lineup. I just kind of felt like we've been winning. "I'm not going to change a whole lot."

Nutt's slump started May 11 at Alabama. In that three-game series, he went 0-14. He, too, left 10 men on base and was 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

He started the first Ole Miss game on May 17 but was replaced after going 0-for-2. He did not play the rest of the series.

Pop Ups:

Arkansas' 516 strikeouts as a team this season are the second-most in school history. The team's 9 strikeouts per nine innings is the best in school history, ahead of the 8.49 per in 1995 ... Arkansas is 16-23 all time in the SEC Tournament ... The Hogs are 35-9 this season when they score first ... The Razorbacks are 8 for 17 (.471) with runners in scoring position during the first two games of the SEC Tournament. The Diamond Hogs also are 9 for 24 (.375) with two outs, including eight two-out RBIs ... Hamblin is hitting .327 over the last 41 games with 20 home runs, 12 doubles, 48 RBI, a .788 slugging percentage and a .398 on-base percentage with 43 runs scored. He began the year hitting .119 (5 for 42).

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