FAYETTEVILLE — No. 1 Arkansas and No. 19 Nebraska will meet tonight at 6 p.m. for the right to advance to a super regional and the loser’s season ending.
Nebraska took a 5-3 win on Sunday night after the Hogs came out with a 5-1 on Saturday night. Much like all the SEC series the rubber game will be tonight. Dave Van Horn talked about his confidence level heading into tonight’s game.
“Well, we’re always confident,” Van Horn said. “I mean, we’ve come through most of the time, like you said. But we’ve got to play better than we did tonight. So we’re confident. We’re looking forward to tomorrow. We’ll fight them to the end. Whether we win or lose, we’re going to play hard tomorrow. I guarantee you we’re going to play better.”
In the regionals, Van Horn has started Caleb Bolden, Patrick Wicklander and Lael Lockhart. Freshman Jaxon Wiggins got one start in the SEC Tournament and one would assume is a possibility tonight. Bolden might even be a possibility since he only threw 1.1 innings against New Jersey Institute of Technology and 34 pitches.
“Well, I think we got to get a starter, obviously,” Van Horn said. “And then we’ve got three or four of our better relievers ready. But we need to get off to a good start. If we don’t, we’re going to have to score some runs and we haven’t swung the bats well. We haven’t swung the bats well really the whole weekend, except for a couple innings on Friday. Really yesterday we didn’t swing the bats very well. Today we didn’t swing the bats very well. We’re facing good pitching obviously and a team that knows how to win, in Nebraska. We just have to be better.”
Kevin Kopps didn’t pitch Sunday night so one would assume he will be available for probably multiple innings tonight. He threw 24 pitches against NJIT on Friday and then 71 pitches in Saturday’s win against this Nebraska team.
Regardless of who pitches though the Hogs have to hit much better. Even in Saturday’s win over Nebraska the Hogs only had five hits. They were the beneficiary of 10 walks from Nebraska pitchers. Nebraska also committed two errors in that game and the Hogs stranded 13 runners in the win. On Sunday night, Nebraska once again committed two errors, but the Hogs had three. But Nebraska pitchers cut the walks in half only allowing five. Both teams stranded six runners, but the Hogs were outhit 10-4. Arkansas got two of its three runs on a wild pitch.
Van Horn credited Spencer Schwellenbach for his work on Sunday night.
“Schwellenbach was really good today,” Van Horn said. “He came in and threw about 65 pitches. We had a chance to get him on the ropes a couple of times and he didn’t let us, especially there in the ninth. He made some really big pitches when he needed them. Pitched us backwards a little bit here and there.
“They’ve done a lot of mixing and matching up with our left-handed hitters when you go back to last night. Left on left and right on right. Tonight (Kyle) Perry did a good job to get them off to a good start. He’s got what looks like to me a high-spin fastball that kind of stays up in the zone and we were swinging under it. I think he ran out of gas. He’s coming off an injury and probably trying to build his pitch count up. They gave us two of those runs, on a wild pitch and then a throw. We didn’t do much all night.”
First baseman Brady Slavens is normally one of Arkansas’ better hitters, but he struck out four times in as many chances Sunday night. Slavens hadn’t played since the opening game in the SEC Tournament when he injured his ankle against Georgia. Was it just him being rusty?
“I think it wasn’t a great matchup coming off 10 days off against left on left,” Van Horn said. “Then Schwellenbach is pretty good. But I thought Brady took some really good swings. He just missed some pitches. I hope he has a better day tomorrow.”
The two teams will battle tonight on ESPN2 for the right to face North Carolina State in the super regional.