The Arkansas baseball team may be surprising most of the rest of the SEC with their good record so far. But that was nonconference. The Diamond Hogs open SEC play starting now as Mississippi State visits Baum Stadium for a three-game set on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Arkansas’ 14-4 record is fourth best in the league. This comes just a year after the Razorbacks finished dead-last in the SEC. To help remedy that, they poached pitching coach Wes Johnson from an in-league team.
That in-league team just so happens to be the Bulldogs (12-6).
Johnson, an Arkansas native, spent last year as pitching coach for Mississippi State. Before that, he was the pitching coach at Dallas Baptist for four seasons. When Dave Jorn retired after last season, Johnson was one of the first calls Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn made.
It’s worked out rather well so far. Diamond Hogs pitchers lead the entire SEC in strikeouts (190) and are middle of the pack in walks allowed. They were ninth and 12th in those same categories a season ago.
The Bulldogs haven’t exactly struggled without Johnson, though they don’t seem quite to be the same team they were last year. Like Arkansas, Mississippi State has lost to Louianana Tech. It also fell against national powers Texas Tech and Oregon (like Arkansas fell against Arizona and Oklahoma State). And both teams have a couple head-scratchers in Morehead State for Mississippi State and Rhode Island for Arkansas.
The two seem connected in so many ways. Mississippi State was picked to finish fourth in the SEC West this preseason. Arkansas was picked fifth. Both are, relative to expectation, overachieving a bit.
Whatever happens this weekend won’t necessarily define either teams’ season. What it will do is go a long way in determining the SEC West hierarchy.
What times are the games in the series?
Friday: 6:30 p.m. (all times local to Fayetteville)
Saturday: 7 p.m.
Sunday: 1 p.m.
How can I watch the games?
Friday’s and Saturday’s games can be seen on SEC Network. Sunday will be on SEC Network+. All games can be streamed on WatchESPN.
Who is calling the Arkansas games?
Alex Perlman (play-by-play) and Troy Eklund (analyst) have the television call.