One season after missing the SEC Tournament altogether, the Arkansas baseball team has earned a first-round bye in Hoover, Ala., next week.
The Razorbacks’ dominant 8-0 win Saturday at Texas A&M clinched the No. 4 seed in the conference tournament. The victory, which also clinched a series win, was one of the Hogs’ most complete performances of the season.
Arkansas had 13 hits on its way to scoring twice in the third, fifth and seventh innings. The lineup was especially effective with runners in scoring position, going 5 for 13 (.385 average).
The pitching was equally impressive. Starter Blaine Knight and reliever Kevin Kopps held the Aggies to 5 hits. Texas A&M had just 2 at-bats with runners in scoring position, failing to capitalize on either opportunity.
Arkansas (39-15 overall, 18-11 SEC) also has put itself in promising position to host a regional at Baum Stadium. The Hogs haven’t hosted a regional since 2010.
Grading the Hogs
Arkansas hit .318 (7 for 22) with runners on base, .385 (5 for 13) with runners in scoring position and .308 (4 for 13) with two outs. Against a quality SEC opponent on the road, that’s outstanding.
Knight was dominant through 6 innings, and Kopps followed with 3 scoreless frames to complete the shutout.
The Big Stick + Arm
Arm: Blaine Knight
Knight was at his best Saturday. He threw 6 shutout innings and surrendered just 3 hits. The Aggies failed to advance a runner past first against him.
There is definitely some concern with Knight, though. He threw just 69 pitches and grimaced his way through his last 2 innings while regularly fidgeting with his throwing arm. This coming after his last two starts were pushed back a day because he needed extra rest according to coach Dave Van Horn.
Stick: Chad Spanberger
Spanberger put his exceptional power to all fields on full display. The lefty belted a line-drive homer to right in the fifth and hit another on a high fly ball to left in the seventh. He now has 14 on the season.
Dominic Fletcher deserves a mention as well. The freshman had 3 hits, 2 runs scored and drove in a run.
What’s next for Arkansas?
Arkansas will open the SEC Tournament against the winner of the No. 5 vs. No. 12 matchup Wednesday. Time of the first pitch Wednesday is yet to be decided.
Auburn or Mississippi State will claim the No. 5 spot depending on the outcome of games later Saturday. The No. 12 seed will be decided by the outcome of Georgia at South Carolina.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Mississippi State had secured the No. 5 in the SEC Tournament.