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Diamond Hogs enter SEC Tournament as top five college team nationally

BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON

FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas will begin play Wednesday at the SEC Baseball Tournament and do so as what most polls see as a top five team in the nation.

The SEC Western Division champion Razorbacks (43-12, 20-10) landed No. 4 Monday in USA Today/ESPN Coaches rankings, No. 5 according to D-1 Baseball and Baseball America and No. 7 per Perfect Game.

Consensus No. 1 Tennessee (45-10, 22-8) is the tournament’s top seed and joins Arkansas, third-seed Kentucky (39-12, 22-8) and fourth-seed Texas A&M (44-11, 19-11) in having first-round byes.

Arkansas clinched the West with a 6-3 win on Saturday at Texas A&M although the Aggies took the series on Sunday with a 14-4 victory and a 1-0 Friday night decision.

Razorback head coach Dave Van Horn was asked if it is good be on the road and have school out to forget that loss.

He qualified his answer while noting it’s all about his team’s mindset.

“Oh, I don’t know, you’re away from your own bed,” Van Horn said. “ But besides that, it’s a little team bonding. I think it can be good. It’s how do you see it? How does your mind see it, you know. Like ‘This is good.’ Or are you negative about it? I don’t think they are.

“I think they’re excited to be playing, on the road, staying in the hotel, eating, practicing and playing. Man, it’s all baseball now.”

Van Horn, whose squad is solidly projected to be a top 8 national seed when the NCAA Tournament bracket is announced next Monday, lauded his team’s academics.

“By the way, we did great this semester,” Van Horn said. “Our team grade point average was over a 3.3, might be one of the highest ones in the spring. We probably had like 5 or 6 guys make 4.0. Just really proud of our guys.”

Texas A&M head coach Jim Schlossnagle congratulated Arkansas for doing what it needed to do to win the West for the fifth time in six seasons.

“We’ve had a great season, (but) we haven’t won one championship unless you want to count the games in Arlington where I think they gave us a trophy,” Schlossnagle said. “That and my starbucks app…costs the same. We haven’t won anything.

“We had a chance to play for a championship at least the last SEC West championship ever. Congrats to Arkansas. We haven’t won one single thing.

“Our pitching is solid. We competed with Arkansas, that’s the best pitching staff we’ve seen all year.”

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The SEC Tournament will get underway Tuesday in Hoover, Ala., with four single-elimination games.

The action will begin with No. 6 Georgia (39-14, 17-13) facing No. 11 LSU (36-20, 13-17) at 9:30 a.m. and continue with No. 7 Alabama (33-21, 13-17) and No. 10 South Carolina (33-21, 13-17) – with the winner getting Arkansas.

Tuesday’s other games have No. 8 Vanderbilt (35-20, 13-17) and No. 9 Florida (28-26, 13-17scheduled for 4:30 p.m. and No. 5 Mississippi State (36-19, 17-13) taking on No. 12 Ole Miss (27-28, 11-19) at 8.

The event will switch to a double elimination format on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday with Saturday’s semifinal reverting back to single elimination.

Photo by John D. James

• • •

2024 SEC Baseball Tournament

Tuesday-Sunday, May 21-26

Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, Hoover, Ala.

Tuesday, May 21 (single elimination)

Game 1: No. 6 Georgia vs. No. 11 LSU, 9:30 a.m., SEC Network

Game 2: No. 7 Alabama vs. No. 10 South Carolina, approximately 1 p.m., SEC Network

Game 3: No. 8 Vanderbilt vs. No. 9 Florida, 4:30 p.m., SEC Network

Game 4: No. 5 Mississippi State vs. No. 12 Ole Miss, approximately 8 p.m., SEC Network

Wednesday, May 22 (double elimination begins)

Game 5: No. 3 Kentucky vs. Winner Game 1, 9:30 a.m., SEC Network

Game 6: No. 2 Arkansas vs. Winner Game 2, approximately 1 p.m., SEC Network

Game 7: No. 1 Tennessee vs. Winner Game 3, 4:30 p.m., SEC Network

Game 8: No. 4 Texas A&M vs. Winner Game 4, approximately 8 p.m., SEC Network

Thursday, May 23

Game 9: Loser Game 5 vs. Loser Game 6, 9:30 a.m., SEC Network

Game 10: Loser Game 7 vs. Loser Game 8, approximately 1 p.m., SEC Network

Game 11: Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6, 4:30 p.m., SEC Network

Game 12: Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8, approximately 8 p.m., SEC Network

Friday, May 24

Game 13: Winner Game 9 vs. Loser Game 11, 3 p.m., SEC Network

Game 14: Winner Game 10 vs. Loser Game 12, approximately 6:30 p.m., SEC Network

Saturday, May 25

Semifinals (single elimination)

Game 15: Winner Game 13 vs. Winner Game 11, noon, SEC Network

Game 16: Winner Game 14 vs. Winner Game 12, approximately 3:30 p.m., SEC Network

Sunday, May 26 (single elimination)

Championship game, 2 p.m., ESPN2

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