SEC Tournament Notebook - Day 3

HOOVER, Ala.- Arkansas head coach Dave van Horn didn't know what he would get out of Ryne Stanek on Friday. The freshman has experienced an up-and-down season, but there's no doubt his win over Alabama was the high point. Stanek's performance increased the chances for Arkansas to host an NCAA Regional as the Razorbacks secured a 4-1 win.

"I just had to stay in control," said Stanek, after he didn't make it out of the first inning during his last start against Ole Miss. "In my last game, I was out of control and had too many moving parts. It was rough. You just have to have a short memory and work through everything or you won't last too long."

The only hits Stanek allowed came back-to-back in the fourth inning when Jared Reaves doubled and Austen Smith singled to give the Crimson Tide its only run of the game.

When that happened, van Horn sent a pitcher down to the bullpen to start getting loose. After that, Stanek's pitches improved and he kept Alabama off balance for the rest of his outing, which ended with a two-out walk to Taylor Dugas.

"Ryan Stanek threw his best game of the year," van Horn said. "He threw a lot of strikes and only had one inning to battle through. He just did a tremendous job."

The right-hander would last 7.2 innings while walking three and striking out five.

Stanek was a third round selection of the Seattle Mariners in the 2010 MLB Draft but turned down a reported $850,000 to pitch for Arkansas. He will turn 21 before the 2012 draft, making him a rare draft eligible sophomore next season. His fastball sat in the low-to-mid 90s on Friday, and he mixed in a curveball and slider that made the Alabama hitters look lost.

"There are freshmen in this league who can really play, and he's starting to see that," van Horn said. "He's a little behind in his development. It's some mechanics and a lot of mental. He's in a tough league, and he grew up a lot today."

Georgia ONE WIN AWAY FROM NCAA TOURNAMENT: The Bulldogs knew they needed three wins in the Hoover to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament, and after a 4-2 win over South Carolina Friday night, they're one away.

It doesn't get much easier. After defeating the No. 1 seed, Georgia now must take on the No. 3 seed Gators on Saturday.

"A little bit of rain might help to cancel it and send us home," Georgia head coach Dave Perno quipped about Saturday's matchup. "This group has been so tough all year. When they get pushed and pushed, they just seem to will something."

If the Bulldogs are going to advance to the SEC Tournament championship on Sunday, they have to beat the Gators twice. That's their eventual goal, but right now they are focused on winning one game and making it to the NCAA Tournament.

Offense for the Bulldogs has been an issue all season. They've combined to score seven runs in the two wins this week, but Perno knows that's the identity of his team.

"At the plate, we're a grind," Perno said. "We've got to have good at-bats. We shut down late because we hit the ball in the air and lost focus. The minute we got a lead, we got away from our approach. We've played three games here and have one double. That's who we are. We've got to grind it and get timely knocks."

The Bulldogs will also get a boost on Saturday as teammate Jonathan Taylor rejoins the team in the dugout. Taylor was paralyzed in a March game against Florida State as he dove for a ball and collided with a teammate.

ALABAMA PLAYS FLAT, ELIMINATED: Even though Arkansas' lead was only one run in the first inning, it deflated Alabama, which came as a surprise to head coach Mitch Gaspard.

The Crimson Tide doesn't have home runs hitters anywhere in the lineup like they did last season. Alabama is last in the league in home runs, hitting only 20. That numbers is seven behind Tennessee, who ended the season second to last. The SEC's leading home run hitter this season, Florida catcher Mike Zunino, has just five less home runs than the entire Alabama roster.

If the team doesn't work walks and play with energy, they just don't have enough offense to compete. They did neither on Friday, but it was the lack of energy that frustrated the head coach.

"It's real simple with this team we have now," Gaspard said. "If we don't play with a lot of energy and get after it, we'll be gone in a hurry. That's just who we are. We don't have a lineup where 1-9 can drive it out of the yard. This is a team that's really got to lock in and be competitive with every at-bat. When we don't do that, we're a real average team."

Leadoff hitter Taylor Dugas is the team leader for Alabama in home runs with six. Jared Reaves (3), Austen Smith (3) and Andrew Miller (2) are the only other players on the team with multiple home runs.

"Our guys know what our formula is to win," Gaspard said. "It's a lot of small ball, but to have small ball, you've got to pitch and defend well."

When the top of the lineup isn't getting on base, there isn't much of a reason for small ball. Dugas and Bennett combined to go 0-for-7 with a walk at the top of the order and didn't give the run producers a chance.

"We had to get off to a good first couple of innings with the team, and that starts at the top of the lineup," Alabama catcher Brock Bennett said. "When we get it going, everyone just follows through. When we don't get going, we stay low the whole game and don't come up with the big hit."

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