The Razorback baseball team is in first place in the Southeastern Conference West division after sweeping the Alabama Crimson Tide from April 27-29. The Razorbacks have three series left, starting with the LSU Tigers on May 4-6. One senior second baseman could continue to miss action with a hand contusion depending on pre-series examinations.
Carson Shaddy, who has missed the last six games after getting hit by a pitch against South Carolina on April 14, will be reexamined before game one to see if he can return to the lineup. If he returns, he’ll be tasked with facing an Alex Box Stadium crowd that’s known for its tenacity and intimidation factor. Much of the crowd’s vigor comes from the team that calls the stadium home, a historically-great Tigers team that has fallen off a bit this season.
The Razorbacks’ hitters started swinging the bats well again in the Crimson Tide series, scoring 23 runs. The Razorbacks hit six home runs including two each from freshman third baseman Casey Martin and sophomore center fielder Dominic Fletcher. The team now has an SEC-leading 69 home runs and have the second most home runs in the nation. Fletcher and junior right fielder Eric Cole are tied for the team lead with 10 home runs.
The pitching was relatively solid in the series against Alabama, but the pitching staff surrendered a program-record 15 walks in the 9-7 victory on April 29. Junior pitcher Blaine Knight had another decent start with six innings, giving up three runs and getting the win. Junior Kacey Murphy got a career-high 11 strikeouts in game two, and the bullpen shut the door in the final four innings. Sophomore Isaiah Campbell struggled in the third game, lasting 1 ⅓ innings and walking three. Arkansas coach Van Horn used eight pitchers in the game. Junior pitcher Jake Reindl had two saves in the series, and junior Barrett Loseke picked up one.
Loseke pitched in three games last week against Texas Tech and Alabama, totaling 8 ⅓ scoreless innings and striking out 17. He was named the SEC Pitcher of the Week for his performance.
Arkansas sophomore closer Matt Cronin was not with the team for the Alabama series. He was sick for a few days after the Texas Tech game March 24, and Van Horn said he will be tested for mononucleosis. If he tests positive, he might be out for awhile.
The Tigers have three players hitting over .300 led by junior outfielder Antoine Duplantis’ .354 batting average. He also leads the team with 12 stolen bases. Senior outfielder Beau Jordan leads the team with six home runs and is No. 5 on the team with a .291 batting average.
The Tigers have been led this year by freshman pitcher Ma’Khail Hilliard. He leads the team with eight wins and a 2.89 ERA. Freshman pitcher AJ Labas is second on the team with a 3.18 ERA and is third with five wins. The veteran of the staff is sophomore Zack Hess. Hess has a 3.92 ERA, is second on the team with six wins and leads the team with 77 strikeouts.
The Razorbacks travel to LSU, one of the toughest stadiums to play in the country, looking to keep their slim SEC lead. The second game will be broadcast on the SEC Network and the other two can be viewed on SEC Network Plus.