FAYETTEVILLE — This is it. The disastrous Arkansas baseball season of 2016 can be officially put to rest in a few more hours. No more talk. No more mentioning. The 2017 season has almost arrived and with it, cliché as it is, new hope.
Why go cliché? Because it’s rare such things actually apply the way they do with this year’s Arkansas team. A last-place finish in the SEC, a 13-game losing streak to end the season and a mess of injuries and misplays left things as bad with Arkansas baseball as they’ve been in a generation.
No one expects it again. The Razorbacks were picked fifth in the SEC West, basically on the borderline of a potential NCAA tournament bid. It’ll be close.
Arkansas has a heck of a nonconference schedule to deal with before SEC play even starts. Miami (Ohio) visits this weekend to start things. The Redhawks are picked third in the Mid-American Conference, second in the East Division. After that comes Bryant, which made the NCAA tournament last season as a 3 seed, and later, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Arizona and Kansas State. If nothing else, the Razorbacks will be tested when conference play begins.
In the meantime, Arkansas could use as many wins as it can get to bolster a potential tournament résumé before play in the best conference in baseball begins in mid-March.
What times are the games in the series?
Friday — 3:02 p.m.
Saturday — 12:02 p.m.
Sunday — 1:02 p.m.
How can I watch the games?
SEC Network + and WatchESPN app.
Who is calling the Arkansas-Miami (Ohio) game?
TV: Alex Perlman (play by play), Troy Eklund (analyst)
Radio: Phil Elson (play by play Friday), Scott Inman (play by play Saturday and Sunday), Rick Schaeffer (analyst)
Looking at Miami (Ohio)
The Redhawks return every single starter from a year ago and 96 percent of its total innings pitched overall. That’s where their strength lies. That is somewhat preferable, as Arkansas’ strength should be its lineup.
Cole Gnetz, a 6-foot-4 right-hander is expected to start Friday for Miami. He had 67 strikeouts in 69 innings last season and is one of the top professional prospects in the entire MAC.
Miami’s best hitter is center fielder Steve Sada, who is moving from second base. He’s slight — 5-8 and 160 pounds — but he hit .309 with a nearly .400 on-base percentage last season.