FAYETTEVILLE – After two weeks of playing games Tuesdays through Saturdays, the Arkansas Razorbacks relish playing just one midweek nonconference game before a traditional Friday-through-Sunday, three-game SEC weekend, instead of the made-for-TV Thursdays-through-Saturdays of the past two weeks.
Tonight’s 6:30 game at Baum Stadium against the Missouri State Bears is it for the Razorbacks until their series against the Auburn Tigers on Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at Auburn, Ala.
Arkansas played five games in five days in three cities, playing the Memphis Tigers last Tuesday night at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock, then Wednesday night playing Memphis in Memphis, then driving the remainder of the night through storms back to Fayetteville to host Ole Miss Thursday night, Friday night and Saturday afternoon.
“We went through a stretch there for a couple of weeks where it was kind of brutal,” Razorbacks senior right fielder Tyler Spoon said. “Five games in a row in five days is definitely tough on your body. So, it will be good to kind of just play one this week and get ready for next weekend.”
The Razorbacks (14-13, 3-6) start this week feeling less pressure, finally winning a SEC series by taking two of three from Ole Miss, winning last Thursday and Saturday after opening league play swept three at Vanderbilt and winning just one of three against LSU at Baum.
“Almost a must situation for us today,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said after Arkansas beat Ole Miss, 5-2 last Saturday. “We try not to lay all that on the players, not put that pressure on them, but I tell you what, behind closed doors, in that coach’s office, we knew we needed to win. It wasn’t like we had to win or it’s over, but we needed a win in the worst way. We needed to win a series at home.”
Winning some nonconference midweek games would help, too.
In their last three nonconference midweeks, the Razorbacks lost two consecutively to Gonzaga at Baum, split with Southeast Missouri State at Baum and then split with Memphis, losing in North Little Rock and winning in Memphis.
The Razorbacks did pitch well last week. Tonight they likely will start sophomore James Teague — an early-season disappointment after finishing last season so strongly in the SEC Tournament and NCAA Regional but outstanding last Wednesday with with five innings of winning relief at Memphis.
“That’s the James Teague that we knew,” Van Horn said. “A guy that had pretty good stuff. He is a guy that could definitely figure in if he could duplicate that a little bit.”
A good outing tonight could earn Teague a Sunday start at Auburn, following Norfork native and Mountain Home grad Trey Killian on Friday and Dominic Taccolini Saturday.
However, good outings aren’t easy to achieve against Missouri State. Coach Keith Guttin’s Missouri Valley Conference Bears (17-7) hit .298 as a team. Starting with winning the finale of a three-game series at Kansas State, the Bears have won eight of their last nine, including a win over Kansas and last weekend sweeping three from Jacksonville in Jacksonville, Fla.
“Just from following their scores it seems like they’re scoring a lot of runs,” Van Horn said. “I always seem to pick up their games when they’ve scored 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 runs it seems like. They’ve got an offensive team and I know they’ve got some really good weekend pitchers. I don’t know about their midweek guys.”
Spring football resumes
With last week’s UA spring break concluded, coach Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks resume spring football practice today.
From today through the April 25 annual Red-White game conclusion to spring drills, the Razorbacks will practice Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
All but the Thursday practice before the Red-White game will be in full pads.
The Razorbacks have 12 of their 15 maximum allowed spring drills remaining, having practiced three times preceding spring break.