Rest Only Part of Remedy for Hogs’ Slumping Sluggers + More Tidbits on Fayetteville Regional

Ben McLaughlin, Arkansas baseball, Fayetteville Regional, NCAA Tournament
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics

The most pressing issue for Arkansas baseball heading into the Fayetteville Regional may be how the top half of its lineup is in the midst of a slump.

Dave Van Horn spoke bluntly about those struggles after the loss to Texas A&M that knocked the Razorbacks out of the SEC Tournament: “If we don’t get the offense going, it’ll be a quick weekend for us.”

In Hoover, Ala., hitters 1-5 in Arkansas’ order contributed just two multi-hit performances, as Kendall Diggs and Tavian Josenberger went 2 for 5 on Wednesday and Saturday, respectively.

Throw in Jace Bohrofen, Jared Wegner and Brady Slavens, and that group went a combined 9 for 61 (.148) with 24 strikeouts and only eight free passes over the three games. Individually, their slumps are of varying lengths:

  • Tavian Josenberger: 4 for 30, 10 BB, 14 K — last 9 games
  • Kendall Diggs: 3 for 13, 1 BB, 4 K — last 3 games
  • Jace Bohrofen: 3 for 37, 4 BB, 13 K — last 9 games
  • Jared Wegner: 2 for 22, 3 BB, 4 HBP, 10 K — last 6 games
  • Brady Slavens: 2 for 13, 6 K — last 3 games

The Razorbacks will have had several days to get things figured out between the end of the SEC Tournament and Friday’s opener against Santa Clara, which is scheduled for 2 p.m. CT, but most of the issues are between the ears.

“They need to mentally clear their head, try not to do too much because I think that’s what’s going on a little bit with some of those guys,” Van Horn said. “They’re swinging a little too hard, a little too aggressively or swinging at pitches they normally don’t swing at and gotten themselves behind in the count.

“Sometimes just a day or two off can help that a lot and then some instruction, but really more just going back to what they normally do and that’s staying within, kind of the pass-the-baton mentality, just do what you can do and let the next guy do what he does.”

Ben McLaughlin Adapts to New Role

One of the handful of Razorbacks not slumping right now is Ben McLaughlin. His problem is just having a spot in the lineup.

With the return of Jared Wegner for the Vanderbilt series at the end of the regular season, Arkansas’ outfield was once again at full strength. That meant returning Kendall Diggs to designated hitter and putting McLaughlin back on the bench.

It was a tough move to make, but necessary because Wegner was arguably the Razorbacks’ top hitter at the time of his injury and Diggs leads the team in RBIs, so both need to be in the lineup. McLaughlin is a corner infielder, but first baseman Brady Slavens was the hottest hitter on the team until the SEC Tournament and third baseman Caleb Cali has since picked up that title (along with Peyton Holt).

That’s why, despite him slashing .359/.461/.531 over his 18-game run as a full-time starter, McLaughlin is now the Razorbacks’ top option as a pinch hitter – a role in which he’s shined so far.

Against Vanderbilt, he drew a walk to move the potential tying run into scoring position with no outs in the eighth inning of a rubber match. In the SEC Tournament, McLaughlin hit the only pitch he saw into left-center for an RBI single that ended a shutout.

“He’s calm and under control,” Van Horn said. “He looks the same in the box as a pinch hitter in the eighth or ninth than as a starter. It’s not like he’s sped up. There’s always that opportunity in the game for him to come into a tough situation and get a big hit or drive in a run.”

Those who follow Arkansas baseball have seen the value in having a pinch hitter waiting to be deployed in the perfect spot. Just two years ago, Charlie Welch delivered some of the biggest swings of the Razorbacks’ historic season in a pinch-hit role – including his memorable home run to essentially seal the Fayetteville Regional against Nebraska.

History of the No. 3 Seed

It has no bearing on this year’s event, but the No. 3 national seed has gone on to win the national championship three times since the NCAA Tournament adopted its current format in 1999.

That is tied with the No. 2 seed for the most titles among the top eight national seeds and two of them were at the expense of the Razorbacks.

In 2009, LSU won it all as the No. 3 seed. That was the year Brett Eibner hit his legendary home run to help beat Virginia and advance to the semifinals of the College World Series – where Arkansas lost to the Tigers for a second time to be eliminated.

After Florida won it all in 2017 as the No. 3 seed, Oregon State did the same the following year – but there’s no need to rehash the details of that championship series.

Last Time vs Arkansas Baseball

All three of the visiting teams in the Fayetteville Regional have played the Razorbacks before, albeit some much more recently than others.

Most notably, TCU cruised to an 18-5 win over Arkansas at the College Baseball Showdown in Arlington, Texas, back on Feb. 18 – the second game of the season. That snapped the Razorbacks’ seven-game winning streak in the series, which included a pair of wins in the 2019 Fayetteville Regional.

As former Southwest Conference foes, Arkansas and TCU have met quite a bit through the years, with the Razorbacks dominating the series. Even with this season’s loss, they are 48-20 all-time against the Horned Frogs.

The last meeting between Arkansas and Arizona was five years ago, when they played a midweek game at a neutral site before participating in the Tony Gwynn Legacy Tournament in San Diego. The Razorbacks won that game 1-0, with the lone run coming on Heston Kjerstad’s second career home run.

The Wildcats lead the all-time series 4-3, but the teams have split their two meetings in the postseason. Arkansas beat Arizona 10-3 on its way to a runner-up finish in the 1979 College World Series and the Wildcats returned the favor with a 7-2 win that knocked the Razorbacks out of the 2004 College World Series.

Santa Clara has played Arkansas just once in baseball. That was way back in 1995, when Arkansas beat the Broncos 10-3 in a neutral site game in San Jose, Calif.

Fayetteville Regional Statistical Comparison

STATArkansasTCUArizonaSanta Clara
RPINo. 3No. 33No. 45No. 81


More coverage of Arkansas baseball and the Fayetteville Regional from BoAS…


More coverage of Arkansas baseball and the Fayetteville Regional from BoAS…

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