HOOVER, Ala. — Arkansas came to the Southeastern Conference Tournament looking to regain momentum lost during its lengthy, regular season-ending slide.
Even though Vanderbilt piled up hit after hit, and scored run after run in Regions Park on Saturday afternoon, the Razorbacks believe they accomplished their goal.
Arkansas was eliminated from the SEC Tournament with an 11-1 loss in a game that lasted only seven innings because of the 10-run rule. It resulted in the Razorbacks' worst loss in SEC Tournament history, but the disappointment wasn't exactly on Arkansas' mind.
"We came in needing to win some games and we did," second baseman Bo Bigham said of the Razorbacks, who went 2-2 in the tournament. "We played good up until (Saturday). ... We're real confident about our team. We came together. We're looking forward to next weekend."
Bigham was part of Arkansas' youthful lineup for the second straight outing. But one day after seven freshmen led the Hogs to a 10-7 win against the Gators in an elimination game, the Razorbacks (34-22) struggled with the suddenly resurgent Commodores (34-24).
Vanderbilt, which was off Friday after beating LSU (5-4) and South Carolina (4-1) to open the tournament, leaned on a complete game from starting pitcher Caleb Cotham (6-5) Saturday. The right-hander, who also beat Arkansas 13-6 in Fayetteville earlier this season, allowed just one run on five hits. He struck out seven Razorbacks.
"When we approached him about the start (Friday night), he gave us all the right answers," Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said. "He pitched very, very well. I'm proud of him."
The Commodores also got a steady stream of hits and runs to make Cotham's day easier. They scored in the fourth (4), fifth (3), sixth (2) and seventh (2) innings.
Curt Casali began the battering when he clubbed a solo home run off Arkansas starter TJ Forrest (2-6) to lead off the fourth inning. Jonathan White ended it in the seventh when he hit a grounder off Justin Wells — Arkansas' fourth pitcher of the game — to score Jason Esposito.
All nine Commodores had at least one hit and scored at least one run.
"They got a day off," Van Horn said of Vanderbilt. "You could tell they were full of energy. They've got some good pitching over there and they swing the bats well.
"They're going to be tough to stop."
Van Horn said the Razorbacks had SEC Tournament title hopes this week in Hoover. At the very least on Saturday, he wanted Arkansas to beat the Commodores in the first game to force a rematch a few hours later.
Neither happened. But Van Horn said there was plenty to build on as Arkansas prepares for the NCAA Tournament.
"It was a good week," Van Horn said. "We had some young guys get a lot of at-bats. I saw them get better."
The Razorbacks aren't expected to earn one of the NCAA's 16 regional host sites, which will be released today, because of their late collapse. But Arkansas should be in the 64-team field when it is announced on Monday.
In order to advance, though, Van Horn said improvement is needed. He said the bullpen must pitch better after being shelled Saturday. He said Arkansas' veterans must come through at the plate. He also said the Razorbacks need to get healthy, hoping injured second baseman Ben Tschepikow and shortstop Scott Lyons return next week.
"I think this tournament is going to help our team," Van Horn said. "We feel like we can be a tournament team.
"Especially at the tournament with four teams in it. We've just got to get hot. You've got to win the first game."
Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn and catcher James McCann await relief pitcher Justin Wells arrival at the mound.
Wells was one of four UA pitchers in the loss.
Vanderbilt pitcher Caleb Cotham held the Arkansas hitters in check.
Chase Leavitt rounds the bases.
Arkansas shortstop Tim Carver dives to make a play.
Vandy's Jason Esposito advances to third on the aforementioned play.
Brian Harris beats the throw to Jacob House for an infield hit.
Collin Kuhn hauls in a fly ball as Leavitt looks on.
Arkansas' Bo Bigham catches the ball as Jonathan White successfully steals second base.
Razorback third baseman Zach Cox gets an out in foul territory.
Curt Casali had a blast that left the yard.
Casali is mobbed at home plate.
Vandy Eliminates Arkansas
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