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Arkansas gets Baton Rouge wake up call

Baxendale's funk has Hogs out of rhythm
With first place in the SEC west on the line, the third ranked Arkansas baseball team was brought back to earth this weekend at LSU, swept for the first time in two years and leaving the team searching for answers.

To be fair, the final two games of the series could've gone either way, the Razorbacks had the Tigers on the ropes in both, only to lose in extra innings thanks to a couple of unlucky bounces (Matt Reynolds with two of them in the finale's final frame).

The sweep doesn't mean Arkansas is damaged goods, far from it. They're still solid from top to bottom with perhaps the best pitching staff in college baseball. But it's the recent play of the staff's ace, DJ Baxendale, that raises the most alarming red flag.

The preseason All-American has been bludgeoned in his last two starts, chased early on in both contests after giving up an astounding 13 runs on 17 hits. Luckily for Arkansas, they survived Baxendale's first start by coming back to take the Mississippi St. series, but weren't so lucky against LSU.

Any coach will tell you the Friday game is the most important, it's the tone setter and where you want your best arm on display. And coming off a fine second half to last season, and strong offseason, it's a roll Baxendale relished entering 2012. But with his ERA rising fast and confidence level dropping like a rock, there is cause for concern.

Before the LSU series, Dave Van Horn expressed full support in Bax. "Everybody gets knocked down. It just happens. … I think DJ is ready to pitch,” Van Horn said.

But with his ace "knocked down" for a second time in as many starts and their lead in the west evaporated, Van Horn has to decide if that confidence in Baxendale is still warranted.
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