College baseball is roulette.
Depends on where the spin stops.
Last week, the University of Central Arkansas defeated Mississippi State, which eliminated the University of Arkansas from the Southeastern Conference tournament. Earlier in the season, UCA defeated UTSA, which defeated Baylor when it was No. 1 in the country.
UCA qualified for the Southland Conference tournament as the seventh seed and went two and out.
First maxim of college baseball: Never compare scores. Every game, every situation is different. The game can change quickly on a bunt or an error.
Mid-week games are pretty much for practice. The best players, particularly the best pitchers, don’t usually play in mid-week games. Baylor, having already clinched the Big 12 title, used a young pitcher and essentially played a junior varsity team against UTSA.
Second maxim of college baseball: Nobody is loaded. NCAA Division I teams are only allotted 11.7 full scholarships. Recruiting is a cross-your-fingers thing since many of the top high school or junior college players sign pro contracts. The scholarship money can be divided however a coach sees fit. Hardly anyone receives a full scholarship.
There is as much parity in college baseball as there is any sport.
I’m not sure if that fully explains what has happened to the University of Arkansas baseball team.
Overrated and underachieving?
Not sure if it’s either. The expectations may have been unrealistic for the type of team that took the field.
UA baseball coach Dave Van Horn got stuck with too many square pegs to fit into round holes.
He loaded up on pitching (almost can’t have enough pitching in college baseball). But for various reasons, including some top-hitting recruits turning pro, he ended up with a team with no power. The Razorbacks are a team forced to play small ball but are incapable of doing it consistently.
It’s a team that seems to play hard; I don’t think the problem has been effort most of the time.
When a team loses as many close games as this team has, it usually points to lack of confidence (in themselves and each other) and a dysfunctional lineup. There is likely a chemistry problem. Sometimes. it’s a team going through the motions, with a greater ability to stuff rallies rather than sustain them.
The Razorbacks seem to be unable to execute the fundamentals at key times. But a lot of teams are like that. Fundamentals became obscured in a past error of power ball.
All is not lost. The Hogs, with hardly any wins of any quality and a team that has not played that well (even at home) in the last month, will very likely be shipped to another region at a low seed. But with their pitching, they could be a dangerous lower seed. They have enough pitching to reach a regional final.
Right now, the Hogs are a limping team and need to find a crutch — in the clutch.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org)