Courtesy of Arkansas Athletics
Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn

The SEC is really a baseball conference and Arkansas is at the top

Eric Bolin

With your bacon, have some Hogs for Breakfast. It’s SEC Country’s weekday column and roundup on all things Arkansas. Opinion, numbers, inane babble and more! And now with ironic exclamation points. There is no place like it on the Web.

You may have missed it on Tuesday night. The game went late. And long.

But Arkansas beat Missouri State, 12-4, up in Springfield. Now, that’s not remarkable in and of itself. An 8-run win is impressive and all, but it’s a midweek game in the heart of SEC play. It wasn’t even on television. Not even SEC Network+. The game got the ol’ ESPN3 treatment.

Make a mental note, though. Such a game last season would have been another Arkansas stumble. The team that got down on itself with regularity in 2016 isn’t even close to the same this season.

And it could have happened Tuesday. The Razorbacks, coaches and players could have been frustrated to the point of stumbling against Missouri State. After all, LSU came into Baum Stadium on the weekend and took 2 of 3. The Saturday game saw Arkansas lose an 8-1 lead and drop the game, 10-8. On Sunday, Diamond Hogs hitters didn’t do squat; 6 hits in a shutout loss.

The weekend was reminiscent of last year against the Tigers down in Baton Rouge. Arkansas wouldn’t win another game after leaving the Louisiana state capital.

None of this is to say Arkansas was going to fold up shop following this year’s disappointment against the Tigers. But a difficult time Tuesday against a likely NCAA Tournament team in Missouri State wouldn’t have been a surprise.

Instead, it was a dismantling for the team tied for first in the SEC. Arkansas took 2 early leads, only to see the Bears tie it twice. A put-away inning followed. Then more. And more still.

Those games weren’t happening last season. Well, they were, but they were happened *to* the Razorbacks. Not for them.

And even though there are 5 SEC series remaining and another handful of nonconference games, it can be said, with zero hesitance, these Diamond Hogs are back.

La’Michael Pettway states case to break out

Talent was never going to be the issue with La’Michael Pettway. His coach, Bret Bielema, said as much.

Now, with 2 seasons at Arkansas under his belt, Pettway thinks he can be one of the breakout players among the Arkansas wide receiving corps. Our Trent Shadid goes into that here.

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Arkansas wide receivers coach Michael Smith is banking on a step forward from La’ Michael Pettway. (Jason Kersey/SEC Country)

Watching Pettway in high school was a treat. He’s 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds now, which isn’t far off the size he was at Class 4A Nashville. Pettway towered over most of his competition. The size advantage, plus the skill advantage, made him one of the most impressive wideouts in the state the last few years considering, too, school size.

The measurables have translated in college, too. He made the first catch of his career against Alcorn State, a 10-yard touchdown, last season. And while he didn’t have another all season, he’s done enough since to make himself a starter alongside Deon Stewart and Jared Cornelius.

Now, he just has to keep the gig.

When UGA comes to town

By the end of the weekend, the Arkansas baseball team will be halfway through its SEC schedule. The Razorbacks already own more league wins now than they had all last season.

They’re so good thus far they’re tied for the best record in the SEC. So, losing to one of the worst teams in the conference this weekend would be a bad, bad thing.

Arkansas-Dave Van Horn-Arkansas baseball
Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn (Courtesy Arkansas Athletics)

Georgia comes to Fayetteville just a game from last place in the SEC East. If the season ended right now, the Bulldogs would be the last team into the SEC Tournament.

Don’t expect the atmosphere at Baum Stadium to be quite as intense as last weekend when LSU visited, but it should still be a good crowd considering the weather and the Diamond Hogs’ standing.

Game 1 starts Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

ICYMI

  • All is fair in love and war … and recruiting. The Razorbacks have drawn the interest of a recruit who is already committed to Baylor. And he’s coming to Fayetteville to visit.
  • Most of the last few seasons of Arkansas women’s basketball have been difficult. But one bright spot through it all was Jessica Jackson. The Jacksonville High grad has seen her career come to an end at Arkansas, but she’s hopeful to be selected in the WNBA draft on Thursday.
  • Speaking of Arkansas-LSU, the Razorbacks made a last-minute addition to their men’s golf schedule. The lads head to Baton Rouge on Thursday for a one-day, 36-hole tournament — the Tiger Classic. It’s the last tournament of the regular season for the team as the SEC Tournament begins April 21.
  • The player arguably most responsible for Arkansas’ turnaround this season is pitcher Blaine Knight. The sophomore right-hander from Bryant is proving it nationally, too. Knight was named to the Golden Spikes midseason watch list on Wednesday. The Golden Spikes is given to the best amateur baseball player in the country. Former Arkansas outfielder Andrew Benintendi won the award in 2015.

Yee-Haw! Today in Arkansas

OK, earlier this week I wrote about the guy who was robbed when he met someone allegedly trying to sell a lawnmower.

Well, it’s happened again.

This guy was just trying to buy a four-wheeler. Because, you know, the lawnmower wasn’t Arkansas enough. Same thing happened as the first victim — supposed seller wanted to meet at a church (again), claimed some malfunction and robbed the would-be buyer.

This time said would-be buyer fired a shot in retaliation. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette story has full details.

Tip, folks: If the seller of something makes up some excuse in person, scram.

Skip Breakfast? C’mon. It’s too important. Catch up with previous versions here.