After a 10 day road trip that ended going 1-2 in the SEC Tournament in Hoover, AL, Arkansas can now head home and rest up for hosting a Regional next weekend in Fayetteville for the third year in a row. This time, the Hogs are expecting to be a top 8 national seed which would ensure them a Super Regional host if they win their Regional. Although they have been struggling offensively lately on their way to losing 4 of their last 5 games, there is reason to be optimistic. All season, Arkansas’ offense has led the team with timely hitting and driving the ball out of the park at times to score a lot of runs. The recent hiccup has cost them some wins as their pitching staff held opponents to 3 runs in each of the three games in the SEC Tournament. Dave Van Horn will likely take this week to get his hitters focused on what made them successful all season, and he handled his pitching staff well this week to get them rested and prepared for the NCAA Tournament. Arkansas will be just fine.
Hitter of the Week
Arkansas recorded 5 hits in each of their games this week, which is not exactly a number we are or want to be accustomed to. In game one Jack Kenley went 1 for 4 and drove in 3 runs with a two out, 2-run single to regain the lead in the 6th inning and an RBI fielder’s choice to provide insurance in the 8th. He also went 1 for 4 in the second game, and moved over to play third base in game three and made a terrific bare handed play running in on a soft grounder to just beat the speedy Ryan Olenek at first base. Matt Goodheart was the only other Hog batter to make a large difference, driving in three runs of his own this week. In game one he was 1 for 4 and drove in a run on a fielder’s choice, while in game three he went 2 for 3 with a 2-run home run, his third of the year.
Pitcher of the Week
All three of Arkansas’ starters were on a pitch count and therefore limited in the distance they could go in their starts regardless of how well they were pitching. Isaiah Campbell turned in a brilliant effort and looks poised to lead this team deep into the postseason. He lasted 5 shutout innings against the No. 7 and likely national seed Georgia Bulldogs. He gave up only 2 hits and an uncharacteristic 3 walks, while striking out 3 on 71 pitches. He faced a bases loaded situation and allowed two on with no outs in another inning but stranded all five runners. Connor Noland had another great start of his own. He also went 5 innings and gave up 1 run on a home run, but otherwise only allowed 1 other hits and 1 walk, and he struck out 2 on 73 pitches. Despite the lack of run support that has prevented him from winning more games down the stretch, Noland has pitched at least 5 innings and allowed 1 earned run or less in 4 of his last 5 starts.
Now 41 and 17 on the season, the Hogs are projected by D1Baseball to be the number 5 seed in the NCAA tournament. Van Horn mentioned in his press conference that he is expecting a top 8 seed as well. Having to win just 5 games at home, a place where Arkansas has only lost one series since 2017, is a very favorable task. The good news about the current projects is that of the six SEC schools projected to host, four are top 8 seeds and would not face Arkansas in a potential Super. The Hogs are currently projected to pair up with Stanford’s Regional. This gives Arkansas a good chance to face someone outside of the conference, should they move on to the second round. The selection show will be this Monday at 11:00am Central on ESPNU and WatchESPN.