Hogs, Rebels need wins

Published 2:51 pm Friday, May 20, 2011

Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn hasn’t spent any time this week looking at the possible tiebreaker scenarios in the Southeastern Conference’s West Division.

Van Horn hopes the Razorbacks can eliminate any need for tiebreakers by closing out the regular season strong during a three-game series with Mississippi that begins Thursday.

Arkansas (34-17) enters the final weekend of conference play as one of four teams tied atop the West. The Razorbacks, along with Alabama, Mississippi State and Auburn, are 13-14 in the SEC and tied for first in the West.

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“I know what we’ve got to do,” Van Horn said. “We’ve got to win the series. That’s all I’m worried about. I’m not worried about tiebreakers. I want to win the championship like everyone else, so we’ll go from there.”

The logjam doesn’t end at the top of the division, with Ole Miss only a game back at 12-15 and LSU two back at 11-16.

All six teams are still alive for one of the four spots at next week’s SEC tournament, and Van Horn is well aware Arkansas could finish anywhere from first to out of the conference tournament altogether.

“We’ll do whatever we’ve got to do,” Van Horn said. “We’re not playing for one win or whatever. We’re just trying to win one game at a time, and we’ll throw whoever we’ve got to throw.”

Van Horn said Razorbacks’ ace DJ Baxendale will get the start against the Rebels (29-23) in Thursday’s series opener. Baxendale (8-1, 1.57 ERA) allowed one run in six innings as Arkansas opened its series against defending national champion South Carolina with a 6-2 win last week before dropping the final two games.

Like Van Horn, Baxendale said he hasn’t looked at the tiebreaker scenarios. At the moment, Alabama would be the top seed from the West at next week’s tournament through tiebreakers. Mississippi State would be second, Auburn third and the Razorbacks fourth.

“I tried not to even mess with that,” Baxendale said. “It’s way too jumbled and iffy, and if this team does that, and we need to do this.

“I just pushed that out of my head. If we take care of our business, good things will happen for us.”

The SEC received eight bids to last year’s NCAA tournament. While there are only eight spots to next week’s conference tournament, Van Horn expects nine teams to make the NCAAs — meaning one team that gets left out next weekend would still have games to look forward to.

The conference has several teams in the top 38 in the current RPI rankings. Florida is No. 1, followed by Vanderbilt at No. 5 and South Carolina at No. 6. The Razorbacks are the top-ranked team from the West at No. 14, followed by LSU at No. 24, Mississippi State at No. 25, Auburn at No. 27, Ole Miss at No. 37 and Alabama at No. 38.

Van Horn said he recently read an article that speculated about the possibility of the SEC placing 10 teams in the NCAA tournament. He said he immediately deleted the article from his computer, only because of the national fallout that would follow so many SEC teams being selected.

“I think if you have 10, it drives people crazy across the country,” Van Horn said. “I know that once SEC teams get into regionals, they usually make it to the championship game and then you feel like you deserved it.

“ I’m just trying to get us in a regional.”