Frustrated Hogs Looking For Postseason Spark

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn can gauge his team's mood by now, and he knows how his players are feeling — frustrated.

Make that very frustrated.

While he doesn't get the sense that his team has quit on him this late in the season, Van Horn admits the disappointment has reached a boiling point after three weeks of mostly bad breaks and tough losses.

"We need to win, obviously," Van Horn said Monday before his team boarded a bus for the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Hoover, Ala. "I don't think I've ever seen a team this frustrated."

It wasn't that long ago that the Razorbacks were feeling good about themselves and their chances of hosting an NCAA regional. They were ranked in the top 10 and making a strong case to be the nation's No. 1 team in early April.

But plenty has changed since then and Arkansas (32-20, 14-15 SEC) will limp into today's opening round of the SEC Tournament with its confidence shaken, having lost eight straight conference games.

And when the Razorbacks face ninth-ranked Florida (38-18, 19-11) at 10 a.m. today, they'll look much different than the confident bunch that swept the Gators in mid-March to open conference play.

"I know the guys are disappointed with the finish, but they're also excited to get to the tournament and just play baseball and hopefully turn it around a little bit," Van Horn said. "Really I think it can take one win and we might catch a little spark."

Arkansas ace Dallas Keuchel (7-3, 3.89 ERA) will try to provide that much-needed jolt when he takes the mound against Florida, winners of four of its last five games. But a string of bad luck has put the Razorbacks' regular lineup in question heading into the tournament.

Shortstop Scott Lyons has a shoulder injury that held him out of the final game of the regular season and has limited his throwing in practice. Senior Ryan Cisterna is expected to get the start at catcher this morning despite his recent struggles behind the plate.

And center fielder Collin Kuhn was scheduled to rejoin his team on Tuesday after flying home to be with his mother, who's battling throat cancer.

"Every team goes through a stretch where they don't play their best baseball, but I find it really hard to believe that (the Razorbacks are) not going to be really, really good in the postseason," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "I mean, I really like their lineup. They've got power.

"When we played them, I thought they had a ton of grit as a team, and when you've got Keuchel on the mound, he's as good as anybody in our league."

After the past three weeks, Van Horn hopes his players can regain the timely hitting and solid pitching that allowed them to win their first eight SEC games.

Arkansas hasn't won a conference game since a May 2 doubleheader against LSU. Still, Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco believes the Razorbacks have the potential to get hot and be a sleeper in the tournament.

"They may be one of those teams that struggled for a few weeks, but can find it again certainly in (the) postseason," Bianco said.

Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament


At Regions Park, Hoover, Ala.

Today's Games

Game 1: No. 7 Arkansas vs. No. 2 Florida, 10 a.m. (Cox Sports)

Game 2: No. 6 Georgia vs. No. 3 Ole Miss, 1:30 p.m.

Game 3: No. 8 Vanderbilt vs. No. 1 LSU, 5 p.m.

Game 4: No. 5 South Carolina vs. No. 4 Alabama, 8:30 p.m.

Thursday's Games

Game 5: Loser G1 vs. Loser G2, 10 a.m.

Game 6: Loser G3 vs. Loser G4, 1:30 p.m.

Game 7: Winner G1 vs. Winner G2, 5 p.m.

Game 8: Winner G3 vs. Winner G4, 8:30 p.m.

Friday's Games

Game 9: Winner G5 vs. Loser G7, 3 p.m. (FSN)

Game 10: Winner G6 vs. Loser G8, 6:30 p.m. (FSN)

Saturday's Games

Game 11: Winner G8 vs. Winner G9, 10 a.m. (FSN)

Game 12: Winner G7 vs. Winner G10, 1:30 p.m. (FSN)

Game 13*: Winner G11 vs. Loser G11, 5 p.m.

Game 14*: Winner G12 vs. Loser G12, 8:30 p.m.

Sunday's Game

Game 15*: Winner G13 vs. Winner G14, 3 p.m. (FSN)

*If both bracket winners are undefeated, there will be no 5 p.m. or 8 p.m. games on Saturday and the championship game slated for Sunday would be played as Game 13.

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