Arkansas grabs share of SEC championship despite falling at Vanderbilt

By Dudley E. Dawson
on 2023-05-20 19:37 PM


NASHVILLE, Tenn. – About midway through Saturday’s Arkansas-Vanderbilt baseball game, the No. 2 Razorbacks clinched a share of the SEC championship.

That happened when LSU lost 9-5 at Georgia – a result that meant the Tigers would finish behind Arkansas (39-15, 20-10) not only in the SEC Western Division race, but the overall one.

The Razorbacks soon tallied four runs to go up 6-4 on the Commodores, but No. 12 Vanderbilt rallied to win 7-6.

That meant Arkansas shared the SEC title with No. 4 Florida (42-13 20-10), who downed Kentucky 5-2 earlier in the day.

“Just really proud of the team,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “ We talked about it … The week before SEC play, we talked about the importance of when you get a chance to win a game, win it. Win that Sunday game when you’ve got a chance to sweep. We did that, I don’t know, three times or so this year. 

“Once we got to the fourth inning today, we found out that Georgia won, and we had won the West and the SEC championship.

“…Just really excited to be SEC champs. It’s so hard to do. To share that crown with Florida. We didn’t play Florida.

“So it’s kind of mixed emotions right now. Frustrated we lost the game, felt like we could have won it. But it’s not like we weren’t trying to win it.”

Arkansas will be the No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala., and will open play Wednesday afternoon against the winner of Tuesday’s single-elimination game between seventh-seeded Tennessee and 10th-seeded Texas A&M.

Arkansas left Nashville for Hoover after the game.

“Once we get out of here, we’re going to stop and eat as a team at a place down the road in Franklin and then head on into Hoover and let the guys relax a little bit and give them tomorrow off,” Van Horn said. “Then we’ll get a little workout in a couple of days in a row, try to get some things squared away and get some guys healed up a little bit.

“As far as the games, we’re going to try to win them, but definitely going to mix it up a little bit. We don’t know who we’re going pitch yet. We’ve got two or three hours on the bus to discuss that a little bit.”

Top seed Florida, Arkansas, third-seeded LSU (42-13, 19-10) and fourth-seeded Vanderbilt (37-17, 19-11) all have byes until Wednesday, when the tournament becomes a double-elimination one until Saturday’s semifinal contests.

Those four teams are expected to get four of the top 8 national seeds per Kendall Rogers of D-1 baseball.

“This is tough baseball, really tough baseball,” Corbin said. “Arkansas just never gives in. Dave’s teams are really tough…This is a damn good conference.”

Arkansas won Thursday night’s game 8-2 and led 8-2 again on Friday before an improbable eight-run, eighth-inning outburst that lifted Vanderbilt to a 10-8 win.

“I wondered how we would respond after Thursday night because we didn’t play well,’ Corbin said. “They flushed it, but even so we weren’t really our personality until we got halfway through that (Friday) game and then certainly had the big inning.

“It felt more like ourselves today in terms of how we moved the bat and the energy in the group.

“…I just thought the brand of baseball was more, whether we won or lost that game, the kids have to feel better about how we played the last 11 innings.”

Corbin has a lot of admiration for Van Horn his program.

“I know they have been through some health issues, but I just think that they are really difficult to play,” Corbin said. “I like their older kids. Cali just has so much confidence in strike zone and gets big hits.

“Holt comes in during the middle of the year…He is so dangerous and is .400 hitter that wasn’t playing at the beginning of the year.

“I think they are really good and are really tough and tough minded. Knowing Dave like I do, his teams are always tough minded and tough to play, Really tough. We are fortunate.”

Vanderbilt’s Enrique Bradford, Jr., tied the game in the sixth on an infield single and then scored what proved to be the winning run by stealing second and third and scoring on a balk by Gage Wood.

Fellow Razorback freshman pitcher Parker Coil had balked in a run earlier in the inning.

“He (Bradford) is that type of player and has been that type of player ever since he stepped on campus,” Corbin said. “He went from a nine hole (hitter) to one hole probably the middle of his freshman year.

“I thought he played with a good heartbeat this weekend. It is probably the best. He has had a lot of good games, but I thought this was one of the better games he has had of late.”

Arkansas had the tying and go-head runs in the seventh and eighth, but could not push them across either time.

The Razorbacks had two on with two outs in the seventh and the hot-hitting Peyton Holt up, but David Horn fanned him to end the half inning.

Holt’s second-inning fielder’s choice was misplayed into a riun-scoring error and then Harold Coll’s sacrifice off Ryan Ginther put Arkansas ahead 2-0.

But Hunter Hollan gave up the lead in the bottom of the second on a 3-run homer to Troy LaNeve, who hit a 3-run homer on his last swing in Friday night’s win.

Hollan went just 2 2/3 innings on Saturday while giving up eight hits and getting eight after a complete game last Sunday.

Will McEntire followed Hollan to the mound and pitched 2 1/3 inning while allowing no runs on one hit before Coil (0-1), Wood and Cody Adcock finished up.

In the eighth, Harold Coll was hit by a pitch and pinch hitter Ben McLaughlin walked to put two on and nobody out.

But Tavian Josenberger could not get a bunt down twice and then fanned before Kendall Diggs flied out.

Corbin brought in Greyson Carter to face Jared Wegner in the eight because of one facet of his game.

“The power,” Corbin said. “I liked his power arm. That kid (Wegner) is a really good hitter, but he was probably trying to get off his swing and hit a three-run home run.

“But the thing about Grayson is that he throws a power fastball and that is headed down and it is tough to lift. I felt like that just with one hitter, he could just come in and charge the zone with a fast ball.”

(Last updated: 2023-05-20 19:37 PM)