Arkansas Enters Home Stretch With SEC West Lead

Thursday, May 3rd 2007, 8:02 pm
By: News On 6

LITTLE ROCK (AP) _ Arkansas leads the SEC West by three games _ and a series against second-place Ole Miss looms large in a couple of weeks.

That three-game set might become irrelevant, though, if the Razorbacks keep winning.

``Our job is to win,'' Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said Thursday. ``If we win, we don't have to look at the standings. We don't have to check the Internet to see who won and how they won and who lost and where we are.''

Arkansas (35-12, 15-6 Southeastern Conference) hosts LSU for a three-game series beginning Friday night. The Razorbacks have nine games remaining in the regular season, which ends May 17-19 with the series against Ole Miss.

The Razorbacks lost to Ole Miss 5-4 in a March tournament in Minneapolis. Arkansas first baseman Danny Hamblin admits his team has peeked at the standings lately.

``It's kind of hard not to,'' Hamblin said. ``We're trying to meet our goals.''

Hamblin began the season in a horrible slump, but he bounced back. The senior is hitting .353 in SEC play _ with a league-high 10 home runs in conference games. He's hitting .281 overall.

``I've been in slumps, but probably never something that drastic,'' Hamblin said. ``It was just about trying to compete every day and staying with what brought me here _ made a few adjustments with my swing.''

The Razorbacks are ranked No. 3 in the Collegiate Baseball poll and No. 7 in the Baseball America poll. They have also received a boost from right-hander Jess Todd, who pitched complete games the last two Sundays in wins at Georgia and Auburn. Todd (6-2) will pitch Saturday against Charlie Furbush (3-6).

Left-hander Nick Schmidt (9-1) will start Friday night for Arkansas against Ryan Byrd (5-1). The Razorbacks' Duke Welker (5-2) will pitch Sunday _ LSU's starter that day has not been announced.

LSU (26-20-1, 9-11-1) is tied with Kentucky for eighth in the overall SEC standings. The top eight teams qualify for the SEC tournament.

``This is a crucial stretch for us, as there are only nine games left in the regular season,'' LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. ``We just have to approach these final three SEC series one at a time and hopefully put ourselves in a position to qualify for postseason play.''