The old saying in baseball is, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
The Arkansas Razorbacks personified that this year, jumping out to a 22-3 start to the season.
But then came the LSU series.
The Diamond Hogs struggled in Baton Rouge, dropping all three games. From that point, Arkansas finished the year 17-11. A team that was once ranked as high as no. 3 in the country dropped out of the Baseball America rankings entirely at one point.
Despite an impressive three game sweep of Tennessee to end the regular season, the struggles continued in the postseason, with Arkansas losing two straight and being the first team eliminated from the SEC tournament.
But. With every cloud comes a silver lining.
That early exit gave the Hogs almost nine full days to rest, practice and recover before the start of regional play.
Did it help?
Well, you tell me. The Razorbacks reeled off three straight wins, including a come-from-behind, 5-4, win over Sam Houston State in the opener and a taught, 1-0 affair against Rice in game two.
With that, Arkansas is riding high heading into Saturday’s Super Regional game one against Baylor. I venture to say that the Diamond Hogs are in as good a position in this Super Regional as anyone in the country.
The Super Regional is a best-of-three series, meaning that teams just have to win two games to advance. Arkansas is built to win two out of three. For once, there isn’t a question on who to pitch when.
DJ Baxendale will go game one. Ryne Stanek will go game two. And if everything goes according to plan, there won’t be a game three. You see, I would take Baxendale and Stanek as a top two of a pitching staff over anyone in the country.
Baxendale’s physical tools aren’t necessarily impressive. He’s a 6’2”, 190 pound right-hander who throws 89-92 mph. But his competitiveness and his mentality on the mound make him the guy to start game one. He will do everything he can to put the Razorbacks in a position to win the game. And the best part? Stanek is turning into Baxendale, version 2.0.
I think of him as the Adam Wainwright to Baxendale’s Chris Carpenter, if you will.
Stanek is turning into every bit the competitor Baxendale is, but with a 97 mph fastball.
Add that two-headed pitching monster to an offense that showed signs of life in the final game of the regional?
There is still a lot of baseball to be played. But those Hogs are in a great spot to become the Oma-Hogs.