It’s that time again! The Hogs are headed back to a Super Regional... Well, they’re not going anywhere because it’s in Fayetteville, but nevertheless, it’s Super Regional time! We’ll be facing a familiar foe in Ole Miss. The teams have played 5 times this season, with Ole Miss taking the advantage with 3 wins to our 2. The most recent game was Arkansas’ ugly exit from the SEC Tournament. After two great overall regional performances, the teams will meet again in Fayetteville.
How do you feel after the regional round?
Red Cup Rebellion: Once I saw the draw we got and the coinciding RPIs, I wasn’t thinking it would be a cake walk. But something happened in the last three weeks and this team is playing loose and having fun with it, and that played a huge part in exorcising the demons from last year’s nightmare regional. Arkansas is a tough bunch, and it’s going to be a war, but I feel if anyone can go toe-to-toe with y’all, it’s us. We’ve won there earlier this year and I don’t think we’ll be intimidated by the atmosphere at Baum-Walker.
Arkansas Fight: It’s a great feeling to go 3-0 with sellout crowds at every game. Cal had beaten good teams throughout the year (thought we didn’t play them), TCU usually puts up a fight, and Central Connecticut State was a cool wildcard. I didn’t think it would be a cake walk, but I thought we would play Cal. I was wrong on Cal, and the Hogs took care of business. Ole Miss terrifies me because of the head to head record throughout the year, but I think Baum-Walker is a big advantage— intimidation factor or not.
What was your team’s strength in the regional?
Red Cup Rebellion: This is a tough one. We got two phenomenal starts from Will Ethridge and Doug Nikhazy. Both went seven and eight innings respectively, freeing up the bullpen to rest and not be exhausted. But the bats probably get the nod here. We outscored regional opponents 41-7 (school record), and hit nine home runs. The middle of the lineup is purring heading to Fayetteville and we will need it and then some squaring off against Isaiah Campbell on Saturday.
Arkansas Fight: Our starting pitchers probably had their best weekend of pitching this season. Connor Noland got the first start, then Isaiah Campbell, then Patrick Wicklander. All three turned in phenomenal performances, combining for a 0.99 combined ERA. Campbell was a proven stud, but he turned in a hell of a performance in his start against TCU, going 8 innings and registering 8 strikeouts to boot. He’ll almost certainly start the first game this weekend.
What needs improvement?
Red Cup Rebellion: This may be a bit cheeky, but in all honesty I’m going to go with baserunning. In the regional final, there were two innings where we had runners in scoring position with less than two outs, and ran into outs at home plate not once, BUT TWICE. Those types of brain farts could prove costly against y’all in a three-game series. Also, quit f****** bunting. It’s a stupid, outdated tool that does nothing positive and it makes me drink a lot.
Arkansas Fight: The pitching was exceptional, but there’s something weird going on with some of the bats. Casey Martin has been in a bit of a slump, and to get out of this Super Regional, I think that’s going to have to change. Trevor Ezell was white-hot, and the rest of the lineup turned in pretty good performances, but all the bats will need to be sure things. After watching y’all torch Jacksonville State, I worry that this series could be a shootout.
What has been your team’s signature skill throughout the season(pitching, hitting, defense, etc)?
Red Cup Rebellion: In order to mix things up a bit and not get too repetitive, the signature skill this season has been the work from Cooper Johnson behind the plate. He was drafted this week by the Tigers in the 6th round and I honestly think they got a steal. He has handled this pitching staff flawlessly and is a wall back there. He’s thrown out 56% of would-be base stealers and has an absolute cannon. He has all but canceled people’s plans to run this season and could play a huge part in the outcome this weekend if we get some tight games and Arkansas is trying to go station-to-station via the stolen base.
Arkansas Fight: Pitching has been beautiful this year, as I said before, but I guess to mix things up, the base-running and stealing have been great this year. Unfortunately that means that some guys ended up stranded at times, but the Hogs are good at getting guys on base. That’s interesting to see that y’all have a guy who’s good at getting guys out stealing. Could make for some interesting chess matches throughout the series.
What players are ones we should watch?
Red Cup Rebellion: On the mound, the aforementioned Ethridge and Nikhazy are the front-line starters that could, if they’re at their best, make this a short super regional. In the bullpen, Austin Miller, Tyler Meyers, and Parker Caracci are the dudes to know. Also, true freshman Kaleb Hill (Pine Bluff native) is a big, physical lefty who COULD come in for lefty-lefty matchups, and he has electric stuff. At the plate, the known commodities are Grae Kessinger, Thomas Dillard, Tyler Keenan, Cooper Johnson, and Cole Zabowski. Barring something wild and crazy, the offense will go as they go. We really need them to stay hot and continue to drive the baseball in order to put stress on y’alls starters in order to get into that bullpen early and often.
Arkansas Fight: I said this before the Regional, and I stand by it: Casey Martin is able to make incredible plays on defense look incredibly mundane. That kind of talent is so special. Obviously Campbell is a joy to watch. Of guys I haven’t mentioned, Heston Kjerstad is capable of sending balls into orbit. I hope we see that. Dominic Fletcher is an incredibly impressive outfielder, and can haul across a lot of space in a very short amount of time. He also started heating up on offense, so there could be some of that to see as well.
For (your team) to make it out of the Fayetteville Super Regional, _____________________ has to happen.
Red Cup Rebellion: Repeat performances from Ethridge and Nikhazy are needed. The bats are going to play no matter what. But we really need those two to get deep into ball games in order to keep the bullpen fresh. Mike Bianco truly only has three or four dudes he really trusts to give the ball to out of the pen and in a perfect world, you’re only using one or two max in each game. If that happens, I expect the bats to be good enough to outscore a potent Razorback lineup.
Arkansas Fight: Like I said during the Regional round table, the real Arkansas needs to show up. This team is deep, and can both pitch well and hit well. We just need the bats to show up. A repeat performance of Hoover will be a disaster, and Ole Miss is NOT the team to do that against. Hopefully y’all aren’t able to wear your powder blue uniforms often because I heard you’re something absurd like 16-2 in them— though a game between our throwback cream uniforms and y’all’s powder blue would be beautiful. If the bats get going, and Ole Miss has to delve deep into the bullpen, I think Arkansas has a great chance to return to Omaha.
Anything else folks should know about your team?
Red Cup Rebellion: Keep an eye on the dugout. As I mentioned above, the guys have been having a ton of fun since playing in Hoover and been doing some goofy stuff. I’m sure those antics will travel to Northwest Arkansas so that should be fun for Hog fans to witness in person. Also if you can see ‘em up close and personal, take a look at Dillard’s forearms. They’re humongous.
Arkansas Fight: The fan signs are wild. There’s a dude with a potato sign, some girls with a sign about how people got on base, enough flags to make a European soccer fan jealous, and enough rowdy hooligans to scare bad umpires. The characters make up the atmosphere at Baum-Walker, and I expect the enormous crowd in the Super Regional will be on its wackiest behavior.
Thanks to the folks at Red Cup Rebellion for talking with us! We look forward to a firecracker of a regional!
2019 NCAA Fayetteville Super Regional Schedule
Saturday, June 8
Game 1 — 11:00 AM (ESPN)
Sunday, June 9
Game 2 — 2:00 PM (ESPNU)
Monday, June 10
Game 3 (if necessary) — 3:00 PM (ESPN2)