The post-season is here, so it's time for the Hogs to work their magic. The Razorbacks actually went 0-2 in the SEC tournament, but all's not as bad as it seems. The SEC tournament generally has little implications for the higher seeds (such as Arkansas); instead, it's the lower seeds who have extra motivation to improve their resume for the NCAA tournament. Such was the case for 8th-seeded LSU, who defeated 7th-seeded Alabama for the SEC title. In addition, because going 0-2 in the SEC tournament will generally not effect a team's post-season standing, many coaches use the games to give their stars a rest and give other players a chance to play. Zack Cox and Brett Eibner sat out both SEC tourney games, and the Hogs' ace Drew Smyly saw time exclusively in relief.
As proof that some coaches will experiment with lineups during the SEC tournament, consider the lineup that Coach Van Horn used for the Vanderbilt Game: Cox, Eibner, and Smyly all on the bench, usual 1B Andy Wilkins at 3B, usual C James McCann at 1B, usual back up 1B (and DH) Monk Kreder at C, and Kyle Atkins (who has been used almost exclusively as a pinch runner all season) in LF. Oft-maligned pitcher Jeremy Heatley makes his first ever SEC start, and easily has the best game of his career. He goes for 3 hits, no runs, and 7 Ks in 5 innings. That's a career high in both strikeouts and innings pitched. Unfortunately, his performance is wasted, as the Hogs take a 0-2 shutout loss. That's to be expected when over 100 runs worth of offense is on the bench.
The Hogs had a chance for revenge against the Florida Gators in the losers' bracket, but it wasn't meant to be. After falling behind 0-3 by the 3rd inning, the Hogs battled back to 3-5 for the 9th inning. With only 1 out and runners on the corners, James McCann sends a ball to the gap in right, but the Florida OF made a spectacular diving catch. A run would score, but Tim Carver took off on a hit-and-run and couldn't make it back to 1st, ending the game at 4-5. Had McCann's hit dropped, this game would have been going to the bottom of the 9th.
As I said before, losing in the SEC tournament means little in terms of NCAA tournament season. Right on cue, the Hogs were awarded a regional host based on their entire body of work. As the No. 1 seed in the regional, the Razorbacks will be taking on Grambling St. on Friday. Washington St. and Kansas St. round out the 2 and 3 seeds. The Hogs are quite familiar with Washington St., having beating them 4 times in the 2009 season (weekend home series sweep and 1 win in the Norman regional). The winner of this region has faces a tough draw, as the Fayetteville regional is paired with the Tempe regional... and #1 national seed Arizona St. The Razorbacks are also quite familiar with the Sundevils, going 2-2 against them since 2008 (trading midweek series sweeps in 2008 and 2009). The Road to Omaha begins Friday, and it's a great time to be a Hog. Woo Pig Sooie!