After missing out on the Southeastern Conference Tournament, Arkansas was forced to watch and wait to see if its name would be called for an NCAA bid. But Monday, the Razorbacks received the good news when it was announced they had been selected to play in Palo Alto (Calif.) Regional.
Arkansas joins No. 1 seed Stanford, No. 2 Pepperdine and fourth-seeded Cal-Davis in Palo Alto, with the Razorbacks squaring off against Pepperdine at 3 p.m. Friday in the opening round.
"We heard everything (this week)," junior third baseman Logan Forsythe said. "I mean we're in, we're not, this website's got us in, this website doesn't. It's been crazy and our hearts have just been pounding.
"Everybody was silent and on the edge of their seat when (the selection show) came on. And when we saw our name on the board, everybody just erupted. Because we still want to play. We're not done playing and I think that's going to show this weekend."
Despite compiling a 34-22 overall record and maintaining an RPI in the Top 35, the Diamond Hogs never knew for sure if they had done enough to make the NCAA's. But when the Palo Alto Regional came across the television sets, Arkansas was officially off the bubble.
"I'll guarantee we're very appreciative," Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn said. "I just appreciate the NCAA committee just sitting down and really evaluating it. Because they could have thrown us out early and said there was no way they were going to take a team that doesn't make the top eight in their league. But they stuck with it, and the RPI matters."
Arkansas will be appearing in a school-record seventh consecutive NCAA Regional dating back to 2002. But unlike the previous six, this one was never a sure bet.
"It's really just a sense of relief," Van Horn said. "You know I just really felt for the players because we've been in limbo for a week.
"The feeling coming here today, we didn't know what we were going to get. We didn't know if we were coming to a party or a funeral. I mean we just didn't have a good feeling and you didn't know what to say. I tried as hard as I could to find out any information I could. I talked to people that normally know and they didn't know and I didn't see that as a good sign. But the positive thing that popped up is when I saw Baseball America put us back on their (projections) in a regional. I know they kind of know people and one of their guys is on the (selection) show. So that kind of made me feel better."
With the Razorbacks getting in, the SEC produced nine teams in regional play for the second time in its history. The conference also received two national seeds, as LSU (No. 7) and Georgia (No. 8) have the inside track to hosting Super Regionals.
"That was the one thing I did find (Sunday) night is we were getting two national seeds, and I thought that was a major plus for our league," Van Horn said. "You know the ACC obviously had a tremendous year. But with two national seeds in our league, when I found that out I thought that helped us as well."
As one of the final teams in the tournament, Arkansas was sent packing for its regional while other SEC teams were able to stay closer to home. But after a week full of doubts, that hardly matters at all to these Razorbacks now.
"It was awesome (to get in)," senior Jeff Nutt said. "I wasn't getting my hopes up too high so if we didn't make it I wouldn't be too disappointed.
"It was just kind of 50-50 on making it or not making it. And getting in is just a blessing and it's an awesome feeling."
NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament
WHAT: Palo Alto, Cal. Regional
WHEN: Friday through Monday
WHERE: Klein Field at Sunken Diamond, Palo Alto, Cal.
TEAMS: No. 1 seed Stanford (33-21), No. 2 Pepperdine (36-19), No. 3 Arkansas (34-22), No. 4 Cal-Davis (34-22)
FRIDAY'S SCHEDULE: Arkansas vs. Pepperdine, 3 p.m.; Stanford vs. Cal-Davis, 7 p.m.
ON THE AIR: KFAY 1030 AM; KURM 790 AM, 100.3 FM; KHGG 1580 AM, 103.1 FM; KXIO 106.9 FM
Arkansas In and Californina Bound
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