FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The Arkansas baseball team will seek to stay atop the SEC as it visits Alabama for a three-game set this weekend.
The Razorbacks are 5-1 in SEC play and in a tie for first place in the West with Auburn. They’re the same two teams that finished in last and second to last in the division last season. Neither has looked even close to those 2016 versions, though.
Arkansas (20-5, 5-1), especially. Dave Van Horn’s team is built around pitching. And you might wonder how that’s much different than years past. The truth is it is not. Van Horn has taken Arkansas to the College World Series four times since he arrived to campus back in the early 2000s. Each time, he has assembled a quality pitching staff.
But 2016 wasn’t like that. Arkansas was 12th in walks and ninth in strikeouts. This season, the Hogs are fifth in the SEC when it comes to fewest walks allowed and tops in the conference in striking out batters. Blaine Knight and Trevor Stephan, the Friday and Saturday starters, have helped those numbers. The two have combined to throw 91 strikeouts and 11 walks in 68 innings.
Those numbers are insane. Tack on to them Arkansas’ SEC-leading 36 home runs as a lineup and the Razorbacks are balanced with both hitting and pitching.
Alabama (12-13, 1-5) is in a bit of a different boat. Crimson Tide pitchers strike out almost no one (12th in the SEC) and walk even an even worse percentage (13th in the SEC in total walks allowed). The Tide are the same team that was swept by Oral Roberts earlier this season and lost to Arkansas-Pine Bluff. They’ve lost four games in a row, though they did beat South Carolina, the sixth-ranked team in the nation.
Arkansas isn’t quite to the Gamecocks level, but the Hogs are pushing toward it. The Diamond Hogs are ranked in every major college baseball poll in the country. A series win in Tuscaloosa will continue their climb.
What times are the games?
Friday at 6 p.m.
Saturday at 7 p.m.
Sunday at 3 p.m.
How can I watch?
On Friday, the game can be seen on SEC Network+ while the Razorbacks and Tide get the main channel treatment on SEC Network on Saturday and Sunday.
Who is calling the Arkansas game?
Eli Gold has the play-by-play and Lance Cormier is the analyst on Friday. Games on Saturday and Sunday have Clay Matvick (PBP) and Mike Rooney (analyst) on the mic.