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Hogs travel to A&M to close out regular season

Craven WhitlowNate Allen Sports Services

Arkansas' Connor Noland (13) throws a pitch to an LSU batter during last weekend's SEC series at Baum-Walker Stadium, the Razorbacks' last appearance at home for the regular season.

By Nate Allen Nate Allen Sports Services

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Texas A&M pitching staff called Monday "the best on paper in the country," by Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn will be one starter short against Van Horn's Razorbacks closing the SEC regular season in a 3-game series at the Aggies Pat Olsen Field and Blue Bell Park in College Station, Texas.

Nationally No. 4 Arkansas, 39-13 overall and at 19-8 leading the SEC West by one game over Mississippi State, 18-9, and chasing one game behind SEC East leader Vanderbilt, 20-8, for the SEC Overall championship, meet Coach Rob Childress' 19th-ranked Aggies, 34-18-1 and 14-12-1 in the SEC West, at 6 p.m. Thursday nationally televised on ESPNU, 6:30 Friday Internet video available on SEC Network + and 2 p.m. Saturday back on national SEC Network TV.

Aggies Game Two lefty starter Asa Lacy, 7-4, 2.13 earned run average and traditionally following Game One lefty starter John Doxakis, 6-3, 1.93, will miss this weekend's series on fulfilling an automatic SEC 4-game suspension for pitchers ejected from a game.

Lacy was ejected during A&M's game last Saturday with Alabama.

Missing A&M's Sunday victory over Alabama and the three games with Arkansas will restore Lacy's eligibility for next week's SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala.

A&M's staff (the staff ERA is 3.05) is plenty deep to compensate for Lacy, Van Horn said.

The Aggies certainly open well with Doxakis whom Van Horn predicts will be "a first round draft choice."

"He's got what I call a plus curveball," Van Horn said. "He's got a big arm and he can throw the ball 93, 92, 91 all the time, and he can go a little bit more. I think last year we didn't do much with him at all. He's a year better, a year smarter."

Given what the Razorbacks lost off their roster from last year's College World Series national runner-up team, these current Razorbacks have amazed their coach.

It started with their preseason ranking which they've obviously exceeded and certainly their SEC preseason projections and contending for SEC West and SEC overall championships this final weekend and Tuesday SEC Tournament first-round bye already assured so they can begin double-elimination playing Wednesday's second round at Hoover.

"This team has really been fun to be around," Van Horn said at Monday's Swatters Club gathering of Razorbacks baseball boosters. "This is a team that was picked fourth in the league by most everybody, maybe third, maybe fifth just in the West alone."

National pollsters kept the faith.

I made the comment to the team at our last team meeting in December, 'When you come back from the holidays we won't be ranked in any poll. I just told them we will have to earn to our way. And then we come back and we are ranked in every poll - 20th, 19th, 18th. I guess the pollsters knew more than I did. They have done a great job and they compete hard to give themselves a chance."