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SEC West champ Arkansas heads to Hoover as No. 2 tourney seed despite loss to Texas A&M

BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON

On the bright side, Arkansas’ baseball team left College Station with yet another SEC Western Division title, the number two seed in next week’s league tournament and an almost certain NCAA Tournament Top 8 national seed.

But the No. 3 Razorbacks (43-12, 20-10) will also leave with a bad taste in their mouths after No. 5 Texas A&M used 15 hits to rout Arkansas 14-4 in a seven-inning, run-rule game Saturday afternoon in College Station.

“Don’t like losing at all, but we won the West,” Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn said. “…And sometimes you’ve got to lose a game, or let one go, to save people to win a game down the road. That’s kind of where we were pitching-wise, injury-wise, rest-wise.”

The win gave the Aggies (44-11, 19-11) a series win, but they needed a sweep to overtake a Razorback program that has won back-to-back West titles and five of the last six

With school out, Arkansas won’t return home and will instead head straight to Hoover, Ala., for the SEC Tournament that begins Tuesday.

The Razorbacks have a first-round bye and will begin play Wednesday at 1 p.m. against the winner of Tuesday’s 7-10 match up.

“We’re going to get out of here tonight,” Van Horn said. “The planes that are all dealing with all the softball regionals and different things, they definitely wanted us to go tonight if possible. They’re real busy tomorrow on Sunday.

“Tomorrow will be pretty much a day off. And then we’ve already got our practices lined up for I think late morning on Monday and Tuesday. I think maybe over to Hoover High and we’re going to use their weight room and get ready to go.

“We need to rest up a little bit, hydrate and eat. I’m sure some guys lost some weight out here the last few days. Get ready for the run.”

Top seed Tennessee and third-seeded Kentucky tied for the SEC overall title and the SEC overall title and the Eastern Division crown and will also have first-round byes.

Texas A&M will be the fourth seed and play the winner of Tuesday’s 5-12 seed contest.

The Arkansas-Texas A&M game ended with Texas A&M’s Ryan Targac getting an RBI single that capped a three-run seventh inning that enforced the run rule.

“Baseball’s funny,” Van Horn said. “Funny how it works sometimes. But, nah, you don’t want to get run-ruled. I don’t know, that’s probably the first time all year.

“But it is what it is and we only … like I’ve already said like four times now, we weren’t going to use a couple of more pitchers that we need Wednesday, Thursday and hopefully Friday and maybe beyond.

Hudson White hit his sixth homer of the season in the second inning and Wehiwa Aloy’s team-leading 13th home run of the season was a three-run blast that tied the game 4-4 in the top of the third.

“Yeah, it’s good to see Aloy continue to hit,” Van Horn said. “And then he took some good swings today as well. And I think White might’ve hit three homers in this thing. I don’t know what he did for the weekend, but I’m sure he’ll be one of those guys who has a chance to be player of the week in the SEC.”

Texas A&M answered right back in the bottom half of the inning on Braden Montgomery’s solo home run that put his team up 5-4 and was the first of 10 unanswered runs for the Aggies.

It was Montgomery’s 26th homer of the season and one of three that Texas A&M hit in the contest with Jace LaViolette’s 28th and Gavin Grahovac’s 19th also leaving the park.

That trio has combined for over 73 home runs this season.

LaViolette and Montgomery both his two-run homers of Arkansas starter Will McEntire in the first two innings.


Texas A&M’s 15 hits was the most Arkansas has given up this season by Arkansas, who had just five.

Chris Cortez (8-2) pitched three scoreless of inning softball relief to get the win while fanning 8 of the 13 batters he faced.

“It’s a cutter that I never really threw that much,” Cortez said. “It is new this year and I have been working on it…We have started to throw it more and more. I changed some things with the grip so I could throw it harder. Some times it is like a gyro slider.

“The other one that’s like 87 to 89 is like my slider. Above 90 is my cutter.”

Cortez wanted to talk more about the pitch hit single to end the game for Targac, one of 10 A&M seniors, but one who has missed most of the season due to injuries been coaching first base.

“I don’t think words can describe it,” Cortez said. “With Ryan Targac, when I saw him saw them off, I was in there crying. I have never been that emotional at a baseball field besides when we lost the last two years when we lost and I get mad to see people leave.

“But other than that, it was just amazing moment that I got to witness.”

Targac was also very emotional about the ending after being used in a coaching role instead of playing role to end his career.

“My main goal was just working pitch to pitch, just trying to get something I could hit,” Targac said. “…Hopefully something I cold get a barrel on and I did. The fans, the team, I can’t even put it into words. I am still trying to hold back tears right now.

“It was something else. It’s unbelievable. This team is something else and this team’s story is not done yet.”

Photo courtesy of Razorbacks Communications

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