Arkansas made a run all the way to Omaha last season. It was a spring and summer full of highs as they won the SEC West as well. They lost a lot of talent but have reloaded for another Omaha run. We’ll take a look at Arkansas.
2019 Record: 46-20 (20-10)
Postseason: 0-2 in College World Series
Perfect Game Recruiting Class: 6th
2020 Prediction: 1st in the West
Arkansas was one of the best SEC teams last season. They lost just five games out of conference and reached the twenty win mark in conference play. They only lost two series all year and managed two big SEC sweeps.
They were eliminated in the double-elimination round of the SEC Tournament after defeating Ole Miss in the first game. They swept their own regional, allowing just six runs over three games. In the Super Regional, they took two out of three from West opponent Ole Miss. They lost two in a row to make their Omaha trip a disappointment.
Notable Non-Conference Games
February 28, March 17: No.24 Oklahoma 33-23, 43 RPI
February 29: Texas 27-27, 65 RPI
March 1: Baylor 35-19, 32 RPI
Arkansas doesn’t face a very daunting out of conference schedule this season. The bulk of their challenges will come in the Shriners Classic in Houston, TX. They’ll get the trio of Oklahoma, Texas and Baylor.
As has been reported for other SEC teams in the same classic, all three Big 12 teams pose interesting matchups. Oklahoma is improved from a season ago and broke into the preseason rankings. They also get a midweek rematch against the Sooners in Oklahoma City in a midweek game on March 17.
SEC East Opponents
April 2-4: No.4 Florida
May 1-3: @ South Carolina
May 8-10: No.5 Georgia
May 14-16: @ Tennessee
Not Playing: No.2 Vanderbilt, Missouri, Kentucky
The Razorbacks pulled the top two SEC East teams on their schedule for 2020. They’ll get both at Baum Stadium where Fayetteville will be rowdy to welcome their SEC opponents. Both series shape up to showcase some of the conference’s top talents.
They’ll get the Gamecocks and Volunteers on the road. Neither team should be much of a threat for Arkansas as they should expect to be able to win both series. They’ll get three straight SEC East series to end the season with Tennessee in the final weekend, allowing some hopeful rest for the pitching before the SEC Tournament.
RHP Connor Noland: 3-5, 4.02 ERA
LHP Patrick Wicklander: 6-2, 4.32 ERA
RHP Kevin Kopps: 6-3, 3.89 ERA
RHP Kole Ramage: 7-1, 5.25 ERA
Expected ace Connor Noland had himself a typical youthful season in 2019. He had his ups and downs but has improved his fastball. Wicklander will provide the second punch of the weekend with similar results from a year ago. His fastball sits right around 92mph with Noland’s
Juniors Kevin Kopps and Kole Ramage will be the options to take over the Sunday role. Neither pitcher has much experience in the starting position in their careers. Ramage has two starts under his belt but struggled keeping batters off the basepaths. Kopps had several multi-inning appearances last season and is hopeful he can make the jump smoothly into the rotation.
The Razorbacks lost a lot of powerful bats from last season but return their two strongest long-ball threats. Trevor Ezell and Dominic Fletcher will be difficult to replace but the core of the lineup will remain strong.
Matt Goodheart can hit the ball as good as anyone. His .345 batting average led the team last year as did his .444 on-base percentage.
Shortstop Casey Martin and outfielder Geston Kjerstad provide two of the most powerful bats in the SEC. They’ll anchor the offense and hope to replicate their 108 combined RBIs from 2019. Martin hit 15 home runs and was second only to Kjerstad who hit 17 long balls of his own.
Arkansas is set up to have a similar result to last year’s Omaha run. They lost the sure Friday night start that Isaiah Campbell provided them in 2019. The rotation will need to fill that gap with steady, long starts throughout the season.
The offense lost some key pieces but isn’t in any trouble with the bulk of the bats back in action. They have three bats that made the Preseason First Team All-SEC team. Arkansas is expecting catcher Casey Opitz to do big things this season after a somewhat disappointing season last year.
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