You kind of figured pitching inconsistencies were going to bite Arkansas sooner or later this season against a good team.
That’s exactly what happened Saturday.
Don’t be too quick to blame Jaxon Wiggins, who served up the walk-off three-run homer to Tennessee’s Max Ferguson that tied them with the Razorbacks for the best record in the SEC.
Wiggins started the season on a hot streak, then disappeared for 22 days before starting against Arkansas State on Tuesday and had enough success to give Van Horn some confidence to bring him into a tight spot.
“We had a chance to win the series right there,” Dave Van Horn said later. “He was the obvious guy. If we had brought somebody else in and it didn’t go well we would have second-guessed ourselves.”
Don’t blame Van Horn, either. He didn’t have a lot of proven options after Kevin Kopps threw 66 pitches to nail down Friday night’s win. Wiggins’ four saves are second-best on the team behind Kopps.
It might not have even come down to that if Caleb Bolden hadn’t come in and settled things down after Peyton Pallette’s rough 3.1 innings to start the game.
Bolden lasted 3.1 innings and gave way to Ryan Costieu gave up one run in 1.1 innings and the bullpen was already starting to get thin.
“Costeiu, he was done,” Van Horn said. “That’s what he does. Four outs maybe. Every time we’ve sent him back out (after that) it hasn’t gone real good.”
Kopps was never going to pitch today.
“I didn’t even have his name on the board,” Van Horn said.
So Wiggins was the obvious choice.
“We went with a guy that had closed some games,” Van Horn said of the decision. “He had some saves in some big games early.”
Now a Razorbacks’ team that was gut-punched when they thought a series win was almost in the bag, they have to come back Sunday at noon against a Tennessee team that has some confidence and has jumped out to a 5-0 lead both days of this series.
And Van Horn wasn’t saying who was going to start even he even knew Saturday afternoon.
“There’s a couple of guys we have in mind,” Van Horn said. “One left, one right.”
Now he’s got to get a team ready to come back from an emotional loss they haven’t had to deal with this season.
“Just told them that’s the way the game works every now and then,” was Van Horn’s message after the game. “Just have to get over it. Tomorrow’s a big game.”
All that’s on the line is the No. 1 ranking in the league heading into the final weekend of the regular season and a series matchup with Florida at a Baum-Walker Stadium that won’t have any restrictions on crowd size.
Van Horn is confident.
“They’re going to be fine,” Van Horn said about the players. “We just need to go out and play ball.”
Finding some pitching will help, too.
First pitch is at noon and Phil Elson will be on the air with the pregame show starting at 11:30 Sunday morning that you can listen to online HERE or on the radio at ESPN Arkansas 95.3 in the River Valley, 96.3 in Hot Springs and 104.3 in Harrison-Mountain Home.