Two wins away from the College World Series is where the Razorbacks find themselves as the only team that beat them in a home series comes to town, Ole Miss.
In late March, Arkansas took the Friday night game of the series versus the Rebels but dropped the Saturday and Sunday affairs. In the Friday contest, Isaiah Campbell was his usual brilliant self. He pitched 7.0 innings allowed 4 hits, 2 runs which were earned, allowed two bases on balls, and struck out five.
Ole Miss took a 4-3 victory over Arkansas on Saturday where they got to starter Conner Noland. Noland didn’t make it a full five innings versus the Rebels. It wasn’t pitching though that got the Razorbacks. Arkansas only mustered six hits and scored in just one inning in the game.
The Sunday contest was just an abysmal showing for the Razorbacks. They started Cody Scroggins who gave up two earned in four innings then Patrick Wicklander relieved him and was only able to get one out. Ole Miss took that contest 10-5 and left 15 on base. It could have been worse.
The two teams then split a pair of contests in the SEC tournament. Arkansas defeated Ole Miss in the first matchup then Ole Miss returned the favor in the loser’s bracket after the Razorbacks fell to Georgia.
The Rebs and Hogs are about to face off in their most meaningful matchup in the history of the series. The Razorbacks—the overall number five national seed—are the only SEC team to have to take on another SEC member in the super regionals. Ask either coach about that fact and I think their sentiment will be the same. They don’t like it! Six SEC teams made it to the super regional round and five of those are from the SEC West. That’s right only Texas A&M and Alabama did not win regionals from the west. Of those two only A&M made the tournament.
The key for Arkansas will be keeping the Ole Miss bats in check. During last week’s regional the Rebels exploded for 45 in three games. Yes, they averaged 15 runs per game. While Arkansas has been mired in somewhat of a slump at the plate. They didn’t show well in the last series of the season versus A&M and the SEC tournament, but they did show signs of breaking out scoring 20 runs in their three games of the regional. Being able to win a 4-3 game is of the utmost importance for Arkansas this weekend.
An advantage that Arkansas may have this weekend versus when they faced off versus Ole Miss in late March is that pitchers Connor Noland and Patrick Wicklander have seemed to grow up. If both players have off nights versus Ole Miss it could be lights out for Arkansas once again. Noland has been the steadier of the two. In his last start Noland pitched 5.1 innings giving up only one earned run in Arkansas’ 11-5 victory over TCU. In the decisive game of the regional Patrick Wicklander held the Horned Frogs at bey throwing 5.0 innings and striking out seven. If the Razorbacks can get one or both guys to pitch well the Razorbacks have a great opportunity to make a return trip to Omaha.
For Arkansas to go as far as they want to go Casey Martin has to produce. Martin, a top five projection in next year’s 2020 MLB draft, is perhaps Arkansas most dangerous player but is 1 for his last 26 at the plate. The good news for Martin is he had some nice at-bats versus TCU and did get a hit. Martin also led the SEC in errors this season. In the first game of the regional versus Central Connecticut State he had three errors in the same inning. Bottom line for the Razorbacks is they need their best player to be their best player.
Omaha and the College World Series is the expectation for the Razorback program these days. With a couple victories this weekend Arkansas will make it back to back trips for the first time ever.