Arkansas is bruised and battered, but may be one of the more dangerous teams in the NCAA Baseball Tournament.
It looks like Arkansas will be without catcher/DH Blake Baxendale which makes it imperative that catcher Jake Wise (probable) recovers from his hand injury. It would bolster the Hogs’ chances if pitcher Jalen Beeks (questionable) is available, too.
The good news is center fielder Anddrew Benintendi and third baseman Bobby Wernes should see action.
Even with the injuries, Arkansas landed a spot in the SEC Tournament semifinals after winning 6 of 7 games to close the regular season in order to qualify for the tournament.
In the SEC Tournament, Arkansas upset Texas A&M and Top-10 ranked Ole Miss before falling to LSU and beating Ole Miss. LSU eliminating the Hogs in the semifinals.
So, now Arkansas
is a No. 2 seed playing No. 3 seed Liberty Friday in the Charlottesville Region. Virginia, who is 29-3 at home this season, is one of the better teams in the country, but the committee didn’t do the Cavaliers any favors placing the Hogs in that region.
UA, who is one of seven teams in the field competing in its 13th straight NCAA Tournament, has defeated 12 Top 25 teams, including six that were ranked in the Top 10 at the time. Arkansas’ pitching staff has a combined 2.63 ERA, which has kept Arkansas in a lot of its games.
its that pitching staff that makes me think Arkansas is set for a good run. The SEC Tournament was a good example. Quality depth is the key to competing in a tournament format. The Hogs played well enduring eight games in 10 days, including five straight at the SEC Tournament.
Twelfth-year Hogs coach Dave Van Horn is the other X-factor. He’s instilled his young team with confidence downy the stretch. It isn’t his most experienced or most talented team, but the Hogs have gotten better all year long. The pollsters recognize it, ranking Arkansas No. 20 this week. Van Horn has a knack for helping teams improve for stretch runs. He has quietly done that with this team.
If some key players return, and maybe even if they don’t, and Arkansas’ defense stays stingy, don’t be surprised if the Hogs leave Charlottesville poised for a College World Series trip.