Softball Bliss; Baseball Woes & the Nick-Jimbo Dustup
Q. Our first comment is from LR Tackett who says: Wow! The softball Razorbacks are the real deal. They just destroyed the field in the Fayetteville regional.
A. Destroyed is right. They scored 26 runs and gave up just five in the three games and only three of those runs were earned. Seven home runs in the three games.
The pitching was suffocating. 19 total strikeouts. Mary Haff with two wins. Gave up just one earned run in those two games. Chenise Delce wins game two. Gave up a couple of earned runs in the top of the 7th on a home run with the game already well in hand.
They played with confidence. I keep saying this. There was very little drama. Arkansas fans have learned to rely on their pitching and solid defense. At some point the bats will explode. So why worry? Additional good news, Texas is coming to town. It doesn’t get any better than that. The only problem is, the TV people have scheduled the first two games on Thursday and Friday. Weekend only games would be better for generating overflow crowds at Bogle Park. But the Thursday game starts at 6 p.m. and the Friday game, which was initially set for 3 p.m., a horrible start time, has been adjusted to 6:30.
Q. Alex4Hogs88 wants to know: Is it possible that the high expectations that this fanbase has for Razorback baseball is causing this team to crumble under the weight of the pressure to meet the high expectations?
A. I guess anything is possible but if that’s true those players signed with the wrong school. When you come to a baseball power like Arkansas with its facilities and its fanbase, the best in college baseball, you should expect there to be high expectations. But I don’t think for a minute that this is the issue.
Go back to the opening game of the season. Arkansas lost to Illinois State at home, 3-2. Their record right now is 20-30. 7-14 in their conference. That game was an early warning. This team has hitting issues. More of a consistency problem at the plate. You can go through the schedule and you’ll see games where they got shut out, scored one run or two runs and games where they scored five or six runs in one inning.
Some of this is normal but the fact it keeps happening is a sign of a problem. But the pitching and defense was good enough that this team remained on top on the SEC West and in the top five nationally for a long time.
The pitching started to go backwards in game three of the A&M series when the Aggies scored 11 runs on them. Since then Auburn scored 8 runs on Arkansas in game one of that series. Vanderbilt scored 9 runs in game one of that series and then Alabama scored 8 runs in game two and 18 runs in game three. The team ERA is pushing four after being well under three earlier in the season.
And the defense has slipped in certain games. They were number two nationally for a long time. They’re around fifth now. Not a huge concern, but it’s still slipping.
But the season is not over. Getting hammered in a single game happens even to good teams. Arkansas lost 16-1 to Bama in game one of that series last season. Plus Mississippi State went 0-2 in the SEC tournament last year and went on to win a national championship.
So things go up and down in college baseball all the time. The concern right now is that Arkansas has put itself in a position where it has to do some good things in Hoover to host an NCAA regional.
Fans are looking for a sign that this is going to go back in a positive direction. But for now all we can talk about is where this team is today and it’s not in a good place.
Q. Referring to the shot DVH took at what he called “10% of the fan base” before the team left for Tuscaloosa Steve asks:
Is this game the fans fault too? Too much criticism causing this collapse? At some point the coaching staff has to look in the mirror and stop blaming fans.
A. That was a bad look. Whatever DVH thinks about Hog fans on social media he should keep that between himself and his players. The only way to avoid criticism as a player is to not play the game. The best advice any coach can give his players is to ignore social media. You’re gonna let hurt feelings affect your play on the field? No way. The only people who can control wins and losses are those coaches and players.
Instead of making it public that he feels bad for his players when they get heavily criticized by a small segment of the fanbase, DVH and his coaches need to work behind the scenes to change things. Figure out what’s wrong and correct it.
Arkansas plays in front of big enthusiastic crowds. There are opposing players who are amazed when they come into Baum-Walker. The fans and few over the top negative posters on Twitter and Facebook are not the issue. The pitching need to get better. They need to correct those occasional defensive lapses and continue to get more consistent at the plate. If they do that they’ll win ball games and criticism will stop.
Q. Jacob Davis says: This could be the wake up call Arkansas needed before post season play.
The actual team we’ve seen all year long has given in.
Dave Van Horn has some work to do.
A. I agree. That’s where we are right now. Has this team been overrated all season long and is just now getting exposed or has it been under performing and if so what’s going to turn it back around? We’ll find out soon enough.
Q. PigDaddyKane has a solution to the RPI hit the Arkansas baseball team is taking for playing in state schools. He says: What if we play them all in a round robin event at Dickey Stephens. It would free up four games for us to play against other teams. A key part of that is being able to broadcast those games.
A. It would have to be an early season tournament played before SEC play starts because it would take up an entire weekend. It would be good for the other teams getting to play closer to home in front of big crowds in North Little Rock. Not sure if it would fit into DVH’s plans in terms of getting his team ready for SEC play. The one tournament they play that time of the season is usually in warm weather locations like Texas, Louisiana or out west. Other than that, Arkansas plays home games as a part of its season ticket package. The one trip to North Little Rock is usually in April and has to be one or two midweek games because of SEC games on the weekend.
Q. Lanny wants to know: Whose side are you taking on the Nick/Jimbo feud? Knowing how you feel about the Aggies I guess that’s a no brainer question.
A. I do come down on Saban’s side but not because of how I feel about the Aggies. He was dead on accurate in what he said. In 2021 A&M had one of it’s worst seasons since joining the SEC. Yes they upset Alabama but lost to Arkansas, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and LSU and yet they landed the highest rated recruiting class in the history of college football because of their winning culture? Give me a break. The evidence suggests that they formed an NIL collective and used the money from it to bring in seven five star recruits. That’s what Saban was saying.
Jimbo Fisher ended up trashing Saban. In effect he said Saban has no character. The man has won seven national championships. If you can prove he did that by cheating, produce the evidence. I do think that Alabama, Auburn and some other SEC schools have boosters that go around the coaches and provide money to recruits. But you have to catch them and prove it.
This NIL controversy is a different matter because it has the potential ruin college football if the one big rule is not enforced and more rules are not added. If you listen to coaches around the country most of them know this and want more controls.
The commissioners of the SEC and Pac 12 recently lobbied congress to get involved. This is what SEC commissioner Greg Sankey had to say about it last week: “There are some concerning trends. “We’re not seeing name image and likeness activity — we’re seeing just straight payments. I think it’s important that we re-center ourselves on what’s supposed to be happening here and the desire to keep that activity out of recruitment to benefit young people economically but to do so in a healthy way.”
I think NIL is going to get put under better control and I think the NCAA is going to do it because we’re seeing a new NCAA emerge these days now that longtime an ineffective president Mark Emmert is headed out the door.
Q. BloodRedHog asks: Have you seen in past SEC Media Days anything close to what we just witnessed between Jimbo and Saban? I had my popcorn out.
A. Sankey ended up reprimanding both men. The equivalent of, Come on boys, play nice or I’ll have to spank you. Saban apologized for naming Texas A&M in his allegations but Fisher went nuts. What he said about Saban was way over the top. Suggesting that somebody hit him up the side his head.
But the bottom line, SEC football is getting tons of national publicity out of this. The Bama-Aggies game next October in Tuscaloosa is probably going to be the highest rating regular season game of 2022.
Personally I think the Tide is going to curb stomp them.
Q. @mousetown says: Saban. Fisher. Kiffin. They all were popping off last week. Glad our head coach was silent. Appreciate Big Sam more and more every day. He just does his job.
A. I agree 100%. Several other SEC coaches tweeted about this. Layne Kiffin was about to go on the Dan Patrick Show and talk about it when he was told not to by Sankey. Sam’s gotta be sitting back, smiling and keeping quiet. Just go play games and win. That’s his motto.
Q. robs4516 asks: What are your thoughts on how the wide receivers and the passing game will do this fall without Burks?
A. We didn’t get a very good look because of that public scrimmage being moved indoors. I’ve said it before. It’s too dark in the indoor football facility and it hurts the passing game. Harder to spot open receivers. Harder to see the ball.
I think they’ll be fine. There are four or five of those guys that, at times, have really impressed me. Jadon Haselwood, Jaquayln Crawford, Ketron Jackson Jr., Warren Thompson, an incoming freshman from Fayetteville High, Isaiah Sategna, and Matt Landers who they got out of the portal last week. He’s a former Georgia receiver. With that many quality options I think the passing game will thrive with K.J. Jefferson at QB.
Q. Eddy Lynn wants to know: Is the new rule lifting the 25 scholarships limit for football in a single season a good thing or a bad thing?
A. It’s temporary and a good thing. Until this portal craziness settles down, we have situations where a team loses x number of players to graduation, x number of players to the portal and the combined number is greater than 25. So without relief those teams end up below the 85 limit on total scholarships. If the problem isn’t fixed then this rule change could end up permanent. I would like to see an end to the one time immediate eligibility transfer but I don’t know if it will happen.
Pigsfeat says: There were times that I thought Tre Williams was unstoppable, outside of being held. How in the world was he not drafted?
A. He had a couple off off the field incidents, one at Arkansas and one at Missouri, that could have hurt him. Apparently he didn’t test well at the combine in running and jumping. There were questions about his ability to use his hands in the pass rush and his slow reactions to defending against the run.
Q. teamOTIS asks: Mike did you ever meet Patrick Beverly? What do you think of Pat Bev’s comments about Chris Paul? What did you think of him when he played at Arkansas? Did you foresee him having this long and successful of a career?
A. Of course I met him. I covered him when he was here. He was kind of a, “what you see is what you get” player to talk to. But he wasn’t as outspoken.
I don’t have much reaction to what he said about Chris Paul. Sounds like he was a little over the top saying Paul can’t play defense at all. I think what he was trying to get across is that he believes that Paul is overrated by the media. He ended up backtracking some but Beverly is always going to tell you what he thinks. That’s his personality.
No, I did not see him having this kind of career in the NBA. I didn’t see him in the NBA at all. He went pro after his sophomore year at Arkansas. He spent four years playing in Europe. In 2014 he was picked up by the Houston Rockets. He spent four years there. Went to the Clippers for four seasons. In 2021 he was signed by the Timberwolves. So that’s 9 years in the NBA. I think he has surprised a lot of people.
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