I expected this team to make it to Omaha about halfway through the 2021 season. Early on there were still a lot of unknowns as far as the pitching staff went. What I didn’t expect was when things started to roll, National accolades were coming in each week and winning the SEC Tournament and regular season championship that the season would unravel in the Super Regional.
Many fans on social media were so quick to dismiss this team after their 3-2 loss to NC State as “Omaha or bust.” That honestly isn’t even right to say. No one outside of the Razorback clubhouse thought the 2021 team would make it this far, be this good and host a super regional.
In the offseason the Hogs lost a lot of talent. Dominic Fletcher (yeah, it’s been a couple of seasons), Heston Kjerstad, Casey Martin and a very talented Curtis Washington all left the club. The pitching was going to be questionable. Really, it was up and down all season outside of Kevin Kopps and Patrick Wicklander.
This team didn’t “suck” or nor were they “pathetic” like many who filled my DM’s made them out to be. They overachieved in 2021 and almost advanced to Omaha. It’s hard enough to get to TD Ameritrade twice in a row but three times would’ve been wild, I agree. The Hogs fell short but that doesn’t mean the season was a failure.
There’s nothing pathetic about this season. The Hogs lost to a team that had as much fight as them. The Wolfpack came to Fayetteville and earned a berth to Omaha.
There was a dog pile of Wolfpack players on the George Cole Field grass. Something I doubt we will ever see done for quite some time in Fayetteville.
This team hit a lot of home runs. A lot of memorable ones at that. My personal favorite was the Robert Moore blast against South Carolina. The “Oompa Loompa” chant really riled him up at the plate as he went on to hit two homers in that game including one incredible bat flip.
Who would forget Dr. RBI, Charlie Welch! His late season batting heroics will be remembered forever. The championship clinching hits will place Welch in Razorback lore. There is a likely return for the mega-hitter next season who will probably have a permanent role at designated hitter.
They also had a pitcher for the ages in Kopps who finished the season with a 0.66 ERA. Arkansas will likely go decades before they ever see another pitching performance like that over an entire season.
The Hogs could return a solid defense next season with standouts Jalen Battles (if he doesn’t turn pro) and Moore commanding the middle infield. Those two are almost an automatic double play.
This loss to NC State will define the season for most fans, not making it to Omaha. However, this team exceeded preseason expectations and surprised a lot of folks, including me.