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Call to arms needed for Razorbacks

OPINION by Bob Wisener | June 22, 2022 at 3:50 a.m.

It ranks with "four balls is a walk" and "three strikes and you're out" among baseball's eternal truisms.

It is one that the any Razorback fan, no matter how strong the shade of purple lens he sees through, should have remembered after the Razorbacks' first game in the College World Series.

You're only as good as your next day's starting pitcher.

This was borne out Monday night as Ole Miss, winning 13-5, stayed unbeaten in postseason and Arkansas got humbled after mauling Stanford 17-2 Saturday in Omaha.

Two Southeastern Conference teams with 1-1 records in the double-elimination round squared off Tuesday night with Arkansas facing Auburn. Barring a Notre Dame comeback against Texas A&M in the afternoon game, one or the other -- Hogs or Tigers -- would be the first of four SEC teams going home. Winners of Bracket A and Bracket B play a best-of-three series next week on Charles Schwab Field for the national title.

Until Ole Miss brought them to earth, the Hogs had won four straight posteseason games, including the 7-3 regional clincher over host Oklahoma State and a weekend sweep at North Carolina in the super regionals. Arkansas exposed Stanford as an overrated No. 2 national seed before Auburn ended the Cardinal's season with a 6-2 victory in Monday's opener.

Ole Miss never trailed Monday night, scoring two runs in the first inning and going up 4-1 on Tim Elko's 23rd home run of the season in the second inning. Chasing Zach Morris after the Arkansas starter retired only two batters, Ole Miss built a 10-3 lead in a four-run fifth.

Freshman lefty Hunter Elliott took it from there, holding Arkansas to six hits in seven innings on a 100-pitch night. Arkansas' Peyton Stovall homered with a man on in the ninth to set the final margin.

Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn used six relievers, conveniently saving Will McEntire for a more telling moment. After Connor Noland pitched Arkansas past North Carolina in the super regional, McEntire started the second game, which the Hogs won 4-3 with two in the ninth.

Van Horn eyed a scenario that he could bring back Noland against Ole Miss, which would have two chances to end the Razorbacks' season.

Not so fast, my friend, said Arkansas' 20th-year coach.

"You can't look at the big picture," Van Horn said after Monday's loss. "You have to figure out how to play well tomorrow. Got to play well tomorrow, got to win tomorrow and have a chance to play the next day. That's our focus, just move and get to tomorrow night's game."

Auburn coach Butch Thompson expressed similar thoughts after the Tigers completed an SEC-made-in-Omaha sweep of Stanford.

"I'm just hunting for every inch we can for our program," Thompson said. "Thankful for today and excited about tomorrow."

The brotherhood of SEC baseball coaches appears strong given the Auburn man's assessment of Van Horn.

"Fighters, winners, they won all their games on the road," Thompson said. "It looks like Dave Van Horn is in full effect and those guys are just amazing, This is my 20th year in the league and I've been respecting him the whole time.

"I just see that offense and ... it can be all of them. It can be somebody different all the time."

What Van Horn needed immediately Tuesday night was a starting pitcher who could work longer, and fare better, than against Ole Miss. Razorback Nation may never hear the last of Rebel fans yelling "Hotty Toddy" if Ole Miss beats Arkansas a second time in Omaha.

Don't know if they roll Toomer's Corner after big Auburn baseball victories, but this late in the season, anything goes.

Print Headline: Call to arms needed for Razorbacks

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