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Tygart to start today for Razorbacks

by Bob Holt | May 27, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
Pitcher Brady Tygart (right) and outfielder Tavian Josenberger joke around on a video call during the Arkansas Razorbacks’ practice Friday at Hoover High School in Hoover, Ala. Tygart will start on the mound for the Razorbacks today against Texas A&M in the SEC Baseball Tournament semifinals. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)

HOOVER, Ala. -- Sophomore right-hander Brady Tygart will start on the mound for the No. 4 Arkansas Razorbacks when they play Texas at noon today in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.

It will be the fifth consecutive start for Tygart as he's gradually continued to build up his pitch count since missing eight weeks while recovering from an elbow injury he suffered against Illinois State on March 1.

Today will be Tygart's second start of the season against the Aggies, who beat LSU 5-4 on Friday in an elimination game.

Tygart made his return on April 28 and threw a scoreless first inning and 20 pitches in the Razorbacks' 10-4 victory over the Aggies.

In Tygart's four starts, he's pitched 10 innings and held Texas A&M, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Vanderbilt to 2 runs, 3 hits and 2 walks with 12 strikeouts.

He has thrown a combined 139 pitches during that stretch with a high of 62 at Vanderbilt last Friday when he went 4 innings and allowed 2 runs and 2 hits without a walk and 7 strikeouts.

"I'd say he's pitched really well," University of Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. "Thrown a lot of strikes. Not relying on his breaking ball. Throwing a lot of fastballs, spotting it up. Good changeup."

Tygart was a closer as a freshman last season when he led the Razorbacks with eight saves.

"I think he's pitched like a starter," Van Horn said. "He could close, but he's pitched like a starter."

Van Horn said that ideally Tygart will throw 65 to 70 pitches today to be ready to start in an NCAA regional game next weekend.

Tygart combined to pitch two scoreless innings in two relief appearances against Texas A&M last season when the Razorbacks won 3-1 and lost 11-10 at College Station, Texas.

"Tygart's got a really good arm. He's super athletic," Aggies Coach Jim Schlossnagle said. "He's got a really good breaking ball and fastball. Loose body. Those are the kind of pitchers we're trying to sign."

Van Horn said most of the pitching staff will be available to go today in relief Tygart, including Will McEntire, who pitched the final four innings in the Razorbacks' 6-5 victory over Texas A&M on Wednesday, and Cody Adcock, who started that game and went two innings.

Arkansas pitchers who likely are done for the SEC Tournament include Zack Morris, who went five innings against Texas A&M, and Hagen Smith and Hunter Hollan, who combined for nine innings in the Razorbacks' 5-4 victory over LSU on Thursday.

Bolton back

Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said shortstop John Bolton likely will be back in the starting lineup today after the senior transfer from Austin Peay missed the previous three games because of a sprained left ankle.

Bolton was injured against Vanderbilt last Friday when he collided with second baseman Peyton Holt while making a catch of a shallow fly ball in center field.

Bolton missed the regular-season finale at Vanderbilt and the first two games at the SEC Tournament when the Razorbacks beat Texas A&M and LSU.

During Arkansas' light practice Friday at Hoover High School, Bolton took ground balls.

"He's doing real good," Van Horn said. "He's probably game ready. He's had a great week working out and the trainer [Corey Wood] working with him and the doctor [James Reeves] working with him. They just told me he's 98% on all the tests. So that means he can play.

"He really wants to play. The kid played at Austin Peay, he's from Memphis. He grew up seeing this tournament, and he really wants to play in the SEC Tournament. So you'll probably see him out there [today]."

Bolton, who plays primarily because of his defense, is batting .205 with 15 runs batted in and 20 runs scored in 46 games -- all starts.

Over the past 10 games, Bolton is 8 for 28 (.286) with 6 runs, 2 RBI and 6 walks with 3 sacrifice bunts.

Junior Harold Coll started at shortstop for the Razorbacks the past three games.

Day off

Arkansas' victory over LSU earned the Razorbacks a day off Friday before they resume play in the SEC Tournament today.

The Razorbacks worked out for about an hour Friday at Hoover High School, where they took batting practice and got in some light weight-lifting.

"I think the positive is we get to come out here and get them out of the hotel and we have access to two fields here," Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said. "Just lift a little bit and relax and sit back and see who we're going to play.

"As far as if we win or lose the game [today], I don't think this day off is going to determine that, but it sure doesn't hurt it."

Arkansas outfielder Jace Bohrofen said he was looking forward to spending some time with his family after Friday's practice.

"It's always nice when you have an off day and can relax and get your body ready for the next day," Bohrofen said. "Get in a few swings, get a light lift in. Just do all the things necessary to get ready for [today's game]."

Quality and quantity

Projections from national websites that cover college baseball have as many as 10 SEC teams making the 64-team NCAA Tournament field and getting eight of the 16 regional host sites.

"I have great respect for all the conferences that I've coached in," said Jim Schlossnagle, who is in his second season at Texas A&M after previously coaching for two seasons at UNLV and 18 seasons at TCU. "Certainly TCU and the Big 12 play very good baseball.

"But it's just the depth of [the SEC]. Number one, there's just more teams [14], and you play more games.

"In this league you play 30 conference games. In the Big 12 currently -- I think they're going to change next year -- but you play 24.

"So you have two weekends where you don't have to play a conference game [in the Big 12], and maybe you can play off a little bit.

"I don't care what [others] say, no matter where you are or what other conference you're in, when you go back to the hotel at night, you turn on the SEC Network and you watch those games and you see those atmospheres.

"There's a lot of great players coming into this conference, and they're not just at LSU. They have great players, but it's just all across the league. Kentucky, Alabama has as strong a team as we've played the whole season.

"It's literally a super regional every single [SEC series] weekend, which if you can just survive it ... it doesn't guarantee you to get to the World Series, but you're not going to be surprised by anything.

"There's no atmosphere, there's no pitcher, there's nothing that's going to surprise you or be something you haven't seen. It can be as good, but it's not going to be better."

Schlossnagle, who led TCU to five College World Series appearances and led the Aggies to the College World Series last season, said he believes the SEC should get as many bids and regional host sites as it deserves based on the seasons its teams have put together.

"You look at each individual school, do they deserve it relative to their season?" Schlossnagle said. "If they deserve it, then they get it, whether it be a national seed or a host.

"The days of regionals being [geographically] regional are long over, and whoever earns it should get it."

Nice at-bat

Arkansas leadoff hitter Tavian Josenberger worked a 10-pitch walk in the first inning against LSU pitcher Paul Skenes to perfectly execute the Razorbacks' offensive approach.

Skenes, the SEC Pitcher of the Year, came out of the game after 3 2/3 innings having thrown 88 pitches.

The Razorbacks scored five runs in the fourth inning and won 5-4.

"It's really important, especially against a guy like that in this kind of game," Arkansas second baseman Peyton Holt said of running up Skenes' pitch count. "We had a really good approach prior to the game that we talked about, and Tavian's first AB kind of set that tone.

"I think he did a really good job seeing pitches, and it trickled down the lineup."

Changing format

The format at the SEC Tournament can be a bit confusing.

Today's semifinals are elimination games with the winners playing for the championship Sunday.

Wednesday's four first-round games were single elimination with the winners advancing to play the top four seeds that had byes.

The games on Thursday and Friday were double elimination.

Vs. Texas A&M

Arkansas is 50-46 against Texas A&M, including 4-0 this season. The Razorbacks are 2-0 against the Aggies in the SEC Tournament with a 4-0 victory in 2014 and 5-4 victory on Wednesday with both games in Hoover.

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