FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas wrapped up its nine-game homestand with some disappointment Saturday night after a 7-2 loss to Auburn in Baum Stadium.
It secured Arkansas’ first conference series loss at home this season and dropped the Razorbacks to 10-11 in Southeastern Conference play. It also added a little more urgency to the rest of the season for a team still fighting for a postseason berth.
“We’ve got 10 games left, nine conference games,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “Just told our team we need to finish strong. We need to get after it somehow, some way. We’ve got to go on the road for the next four ballgames. We’ve got three more at home, then three more on the road. We’ll see what happens.”
Arkansas (28-18, 10-11 in SEC) will play its final midweek game of the regular season today at 4, when the Razorbacks meet Missouri State in Springfield, Mo.
The trip to play in the minor league home of the Springfield Cardinals carries plenty of weight for the Razorbacks as they enter the final leg of the regular season. Arkansas needs a win in against its final nonconference opponent to strengthen its resume and prepare for an important weekend series at surging Ole Miss.
So Arkansas outfielder Tyler Spoon said the Razorbacks must take advantage of it.
“It’s very important for us,” Spoon said last Saturday. “It’s momentum going into Ole Miss and they’re really good this year. Just like every other team in the SEC. Especially at Oxford. We’re going to need some momentum.”
The Razorbacks had hoped to gain ground during the lengthy homestand, which included a 3-0 midweek record against Stephen F. Austin and Northwestern State and the series win against Vanderbilt. Arkansas went 6-3 during the stretch, but struggled through a couple of disappointing performances against the Tigers.
In fact, Arkansas’ only win in the series came with a late rally during the first game of the doubleheader. Catcher Jake Wise tied the game with an RBI in the eighth inning. Then, Spoon won it with a single in the 10th inning.
But Arkansas couldn’t carry the success into Saturday’s second game, falling behind 7-0. The Razorbacks — who climbed back into Baseball America’s top 25 last week —fell out of the rankings again after losing its fifth straight series to Auburn.
“I wish we would have come out and played the way we did in those last innings in the second game,” left fielder Joe Serrano said. “But you win some, you lose some.
“You try not to hang your head and look forward to these next 10 games.”
So Spoon said Arkansas has to regroup for tonight’s game.
“I think we’re a little exhausted just because it’s so many games back-to-back and we’re finally hitting that stretch where our midweeks are kind of fizzling out and we’ve got three SEC weekends left,” Spoon said. “So we’ve got to focus on that, but we can’t look past Missouri State on Tuesday. They’re a tough team. They’re always good. So after that, we’ve just got to focus on the 3 SEC weekends we’ve got left.”
Arkansas will start left-hander Colin Poche (3-0, 1.80 ERA) tonight. Missouri State will send lefty Andy Cheray (1-0, 1.23 ERA) to the mound for his third start.
Arkansas hasn’t lost to Missouri State since 2006. But the Bears have given the Razorbacks fits in Springfield the past three trips.
Arkansas beat Missouri State 2-1 in 2011, 2-0 in 2009 and 7-6 in 10 innings in 2008.
The Razorbacks, who are 6-10 in one-run games and have seven 2-1 losses, expect another close game on the road as they begin the final leg of the regular season.
“They’re always scrappy and the games we play with them are usually tight,” Van Horn said about the Bears. “There’s been some really good ballgames with them.”