Long time head coach Dave Van Horn once again has another loaded Arkansas team. He’s entering his 19th season as head coach and has taken the Hogs to the post season in all but one of those years. This year will be no different as we take a look at what Arkansas is working with.
2019 Record: 46-20 (20-10)
2020 Record: 11-5
Perfect Game Recruiting Class: 5th
Arkansas got off to a hot start last year winning their first seven games including two weekend sweeps. What followed was a five game skid. The Razorbacks were swept in the Shriner’s College Classic with followed by a midweek loss to Illinois State. They then dropped the series opener to South Alabama.
The offense was the greatest asset with a .310 batting average that was good for third in the SEC. The troubles came on the mound however where Arkansas pitching was giving up some lopsided numbers early on.
Arkansas has several options for the weekend rotation. They return three players who were in those roles the most in 2020. Connor Noland had three Friday night starts and did very well with a 2.00 ERA and a 2-0 record. He should have some part in the rotation.
Patrick Wicklander was behind him as the number two guy. He’ll want to put 2020 behind him as he had a 6.32 ERA in four starts. He was very good against weaker competition like Eastern Illinois and Gonzaga. But the lefty struggled against Texas and South Alabama, giving up a total of 11 earned runs in the two starts.
Kole Ramage is the other returning starter who could carve out a spot in the rotation. Ramage had five appearances including two Sunday starts to finish the season as well as a Thursday night start against Gonzaga. He struggled in those three starts giving up seven runs in seven innings.
Two guys Arkansas has listed as potential starters are Caleb Bolden and Zebulon Vermillion. Vermillion worked five bullpen appearances last year and finished with 7.1 innings of no run baseball. Bolden had two starts in four appearances and was looking very good with a 1.12 ERA.
The offense will be missing the No.2 overall pick Heston Kjerstad as well as third rounder Casey Martin from the lineup this year. It’s a lot of offense to replace and certainly it’s not easy to turn around a second overall pick in the order. But Arkansas returns five other players who were hitting over .300 a year ago and have solid transfers coming in to fill the void.
Christian Franklin was hitting the cover off the ball when the season ended last year. He returns to the middle of the lineup after hitting .381 with three homeruns. He’ll be joined by Casey Opitz (.302/.361/.509) and Matt Goodheart (.302/.400/.492). All three are upperclassmen and proven bats.
Christian Franklin with an oppo taco. Oh my. pic.twitter.com/v6JE0IzGBX
— Hogtrough (@Hogtrough) February 23, 2020
Prized jewel of the recruiting class Cayden Wallace should see some time immediately. Wallace was the No.25 ranked player according to Perfect Game. Jalen Battles is an incoming transfer who lighting it up at the JUCO level his freshman year. He’s had a good Fall and should help fill the voids.
Arkansas is going to be exciting to watch this year from an offensive standpoint. The lineup returns a lot of talent and shouldn’t be hurting too bad in the holes left by Kjerstad and Martin. It’ll be fun to watch some new faces transition to the D1 and SEC level of play.
They’re missing that premiere Friday night ace that a lot of ranked SEC teams seem to boast. That’s the main area of concern and as well as a lack of proven rotation arms coming in to the season. Should the pitching struggle again this year, the offense will need to make up for it like last year to keep the Hogs in the hunt for an SEC title.
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