5 Keys To A Hog Win Over Aggies
1. Hit the Ball
The most basic aspect of the game isn’t always simple. In the first game of the LSU series, Arkansas only had four hits and lost 3-1. A few more hits would have led to more runs, and in a two-run game, that could have been the difference between winning and losing the series.
In the first game of the Nebraska doubleheader Tuesday, Arkansas was no-hit for the first time in school history and lost 3-0. Also, they have been shutout in three of their last eight games.
It is very rare for a team to win without getting a hit and impossible to win without scoring a run, so hitting coach Todd Butler must get batters hitting again and knocking in runs.
2. Forget Last Eight Games
Arkansas is 2-6 over the last eight games, dating back to the April 6 loss at Alabama. Along with the three shutouts, their ERA has risen from 1.57 to 1.77 during the stretch.
The Razorbacks need to put these games behind them and move forward with the rest of the season. In 2009, Arkansas had a similar stretch, going 2-8 to end the regular season. This stretch also included losing two out of three games to LSU at Baum Stadium.
However, that year, the Razorbacks rebounded, won two games in the Southeastern Conference tournament and then made it to the College World Series.
If they dwell on these past eight games, they will continue to struggle and could lose to a Texas A&M team that is only 6-9 in SEC play. If they put these games behind them, as they did in 2009, the Razorbacks could get right back on track.
3. Cut Down On Errors
Also during this eight-game stretch, Arkansas has committed 19 errors, an average of 2.38 per game. Of those 19 errors, 15 of them have come in losses.
On the season, Arkansas is 17-2 when committing one or less errors in a game. However, when they commit two or more, their record is 8-12. Clearly, there is a correlation between how well they play defensively and whether or not they win.
Also, Arkansas’ fielding percentage coming into the week was .957, which was 234th out of 296 Division I teams. Their overall team ERA was 1.77 entering the week, the best in the NCAA, but these errors have led to 35 unearned runs.
If these runs were factored into their ERA, it would only be 2.67. It is important for Arkansas not to give Texas A&M any extra runs this week because they are already scoring over four earned runs per game. Those extra runs could be the difference in a one or two-run game.
4. Strong Starting Pitching
How well Arkansas’ starting pitcher performs has been a good indicator of whether they won or lost in their 15 SEC games so far this season. In the Razorbacks’ six losses, the starting pitcher has lasted five innings or more only once and they have a combined ERA of 6.65.
In their nine wins, the starting pitcher threw less than five innings only one time and they have a combined ERA of 1.25. They also average twice as many strikeouts in wins (5.6) than in losses (2.8).
The starters will also be aided by Texas A&M senior Mikey Reynolds missing the series because of an injury. Reynolds is the Aggies’ leading hitter, with a .394 batting average.
If Arkansas’ pitchers throw at least five innings before turning the game over to the bullpen, they will have a much better chance of winning.
5. Jump on A&M’s Starters
Texas A&M has only one pitcher that has started a game in all five of their SEC series, sophomore Daniel Mengden. Outside of him, five other pitchers have combined to start the other 10 games, and understandably so.
While Mengden has a 1.87 ERA against SEC opponents, the other starters have a 6.93 ERA. Twice this season, the Aggies’ starter has failed to make it out of the first inning and seven times they have given up three or more runs.
Senior Kyle Martin has the second most SEC starts for Texas A&M, with three, but has a 7.71 ERA and given up 26 hits in 16.1 innings of work against SEC opponents. The Razorbacks need to jump on these pitchers early and get their bats going, after being no-hit by Nebraska Tuesday.
Once they knock out the starters, they should be able to continue hitting off of Texas A&M’s bullpen, which has an ERA of 5.31 in SEC play.