Hogs not look­ing past Blue Devils

The Saline Courier - - SPORTS - By Nate Allen

FAYETTEVIL­LE - The Ra­zor­backs base­ball por­tion of the Univer­sity of Arkansas sys­tem prefers for­get­ting the un­der­dog UALR Tro­jans com­ing to Fayettevil­le and rout­ing the Ra­zor­backs 17-7.

How­ever, Ra­zor­backs Coach Dave Van Horn and the SEC West co-cham­pion Ra­zor­backs them­selves say they’ll keep that UALR game in mind. It helps pre­pare them host­ing the four-team dou­ble-elim­i­na­tion Fayettevil­le Re­gional at Baum-walker Sta­dium open­ing against the Cen­tral Con­necti­cut State Univer­sity Blue Devils on Fri­day.

Na­tion­ally fifth-seeded among the 16 four-team re­gional tour­na­ments ul­ti­mately ad­vanc­ing eight to play for the na­tional cham­pi­onship at the Col­lege World Series in Omaha, the 41-17 Ra­zor­backs play as the Fayettevil­le Re­gional’s top seed for the coun­try’s most pow­er­ful con­fer­ence send­ing nine of its 14 mem­bers to re­gion­als.

North­east Con­fer­ence Tour­na­ment cham­pion CCSU, 30-21, is its con­fer­ence lone qual­i­fier among the 64.

But Coach Chris Curry’s UALR Tro­jans of the Sun Belt were just 10-18 when they forayed Fayettevil­le and ham­mered the Hogs.

It’s a re­minder, said Ra­zor­backs sopho­more short­stop Casey Martin of Lonoke, the fresh­man third base­man on last year’s

Ra­zor­backs na­tional run­nerup at the Col­lege World Series, not to look ahead to Satur­day’s matchup against the Fri­day night game be­tween the sec­ond-seeded Cal­i­for­nia Golden Bears and third-seeded TCU Horned Frogs.

“We’ve done that a few times this year and we paid for it,” Martin said of look­ing past a foe. “It doesn’t mat­ter who you are, you’ve got to show up and play.”

Drubbed 19-2 by the Ra­zor­backs on an April Tues­day night at Baumwalker, North­west­ern State am­bushed Arkansas 10-7 the fol­low­ing day. But it was UALR that Martin most re­calls over­look­ing.

“They’re lower Di­vi­sion 1 level,” Martin said. “We’re SEC and they’re Sun Belt. That shows you it doesn’t mat­ter what level you are play­ing at. They came in here and proved they can beat any­body. It doesn’t mat­ter how good you are or how bad you are. You can go into any game and win or lose.”

Sopho­more right fielder He­ston Kjer­stad, the fresh­man left fielder for last year’s Ra­zor­backs na­tional run­ner-up, con­curred.

“It doesn’t mat­ter who you play,” Kjer­stad said. “Their con­fer­ence or what they rank, all that stuff goes out the win­dow. The game starts it’s def­i­nitely be­tween the lines and who­ever scores the most runs wins.”

Some post­sea­son prat­falls against the un­her­alded be­lies the Ra­zor­backs’ rich post­sea­son his­tory. That his­tory in­cludes four Col­lege World Series trips un­der re­tired Coach Norm De­briyn, his first a na­tional run­ner-up, and five un­der Van Horn with one na­tional run­ner-up.

Bryant, the 2019 reg­u­lar-sea­son North­east Con­fer­ence cham­pion beaten by CCSU in the North­east Con­fer­ence Tour­na­ment, up­set Van Horn’s Ra­zor­backs open­ing the 2013 Man­hat­tan Re­gional which Arkansas even­tu­ally lost to host Kansas State.

Le­moyne Col­lege of Syra­cuse, New York, up­set De­briyn’s 1987 Ra­zor­backs open­ing the Water­bury, Con­necti­cut, Re­gional that the Ra­zor­backs re­bounded to win and ad­vance to Omaha.

Way back in 1979 but still vividly re­called, De­briyn took the Ra­zor­backs to their sec­ond ever re­gional, a six­team af­fair in Tal­la­has­see Florida.

Dick Howser, who would man­age the 1985 World Series cham­pion Kansas City Roy­als and flashed his 1978 World Series ring as the New York Yan­kees third base base coach, head coached host Florida State.

Me­dia thronged to Howser and the Semi­noles’ arch-ri­val Florida Ga­tors sec­ond seeded in Tal­la­has­see.

Me­dia didn’t mob Howser for long. His Semi­noles skid­ded two-and-through with­out play­ing Arkansas.

Arkansas felled Florida, 9-1.

But the un­her­alded Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity, 12-11 and Delaware, 4-3 and 8-6, were the ones bat­tling De­briyn’s Hogs to the wire far in Tal­la­has­see far more than her­alded Ari­zona and Texas would at the 1979 CWS fall­ing 10-3 and 9-4 to Arkansas in Omaha.

So whether look­ing back 40 years or this year, the Hogs have ex­am­ples to take no­body lightly.

“If you don’t play well, you’ll lose,” Van Horn said. “You have to show up ready to go. You get to this time of year. I shouldn’t have to mo­ti­vate any­body to be out here Fri­day at 1 o’clock ready to play I guar­an­tee you.”

CRAVEN WHITLOW/NATE Allen Sports Ser­vice

Arkansas ju­nior Do­minic Fletcher takes a cut in a game ear­lier this sea­son. Fletcher leads the team in doubles, 22, and is tied for the team lead in RBIS, 53, head­ing into Fri­day’s game with Cen­tral Con­necti­cut State Univer­sity in the first game of the Fayettevil­le Re­gional at Baumwalker Sta­dium in Fayettevil­le.

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