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Junior College Football
Road trip starts home stretch for Hogs
Posted Apr 25, 2012
Arkansas enters the final month of the regular season with plenty of work to do in order to host a NCAA regional in June. This story is free courtesy Johnson Controls. Click the banner to learn more.
Arkansas enters the final month of the regular season with plenty of work to do in order to host a NCAA regional in June.
The Razorbacks (29-12, 9-9 SEC) have lost three of their last four weekend series, including two straight to Kentucky and Ole Miss.
Like with any sport in the SEC, no relief is in sight for Arkansas. On-deck for the No. 21 Razorbacks is Florida - last year's national runner-up and this year's preseason No. 1 - and two-time defending national champion South Carolina.
"Our RPI was 16 coming into this week and if we would have won one more at Ole Miss, it probably would have been 10; that's how much it's moving when you're playing teams that are ranked on the road," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "Florida is the number one RPI team in the country. If we could knock them off a couple of games, it would be big for us.
"We'd obviously like to finish in the top 10. It seems like every team goes through a down spell. I think we've had that, but I think we're coming out of it a little bit."
Arkansas' recent struggles can be attributed largely to a struggling offense. In their last eight losses, the Razorbacks have failed to score more than two runs seven times.
The Razorbacks enter their series at Florida having scored a combined 17 runs in back-to-back wins over Ole Miss and Oral Roberts.
"We feel like we've been being too picky at the plate," said second baseman Matt Reynolds. "We need to be more aggressive and start swinging in hitters' counts."
That improvement will be tested by the No. 5 Gators, however, which boast one of nation's top weekend rotations in right-handers Hudson Randall and Jonathon Crawford, and left-hander Brian Johnson.
Florida (32-10, 11-7) has a team earned run average of 2.98 - third in the SEC to Arkansas and Mississippi State.
"They're a great pitching staff - one of the top in the country, if not the top," said third baseman Bo Bigham. "It's going to be tough, but if we have to play small ball, we'll do that. We're going to try to get wins any way we can."
Arkansas will counter Florida's ace Randall with sophomore right-hander Ryne Stanek on Friday. Stanek was named to the USA Collegiate National Team for the second consecutive year on Wednesday.
Junior right-hander DJ Baxendale will start Sunday's nationally televised contest on ESPN, while no starter has been named for Saturday's game.
"We're going to see how it goes Friday and see who we have to use out of the bullpen," Van Horn said.
The Razorbacks have made a habit of late-season pushes in recent years, including a trip to the College World Series in 2009 despite going 14-15 in conference play.
With holdovers such as Bigham and Tim Carver from that team, and other upperclassmen from a run to the NCAA super regionals the next year, talk of another turnaround is surfacing in the clubhouse.
"It's getting to that time where it's time to make your move," Van Horn said. "It seems like it's happening.
"They're working hard. They know what they want to do and that's play all the way to the end of June."
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